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Local

Lee County rejects new wind rules

Mainstream plans 60 turbines in county

DIXON – The Lee County Board on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected proposed stricter rules for wind farms.

The board voted 18-4 against a new ordinance drafted by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"We're under the old ordinance," Chairman Jim Seeberg said after the vote.

Also Tuesday, a representative of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power said his company turned in an application for 60 turbines the day before.

The turbines are planned for Hamilton and East Grove townships, in the southwestern part of the county.

John Martin, the project manager, said his company's proposal "largely" followed the zoning board's recommended ordinance. Doing so, he said, would appeal to the body that spent months drafting the proposed rules.

He said his company's wind farm would comply with the setback requirements under the proposed ordinance – 1,400 feet away from homes or 3.5 times the height of turbines, whichever is greater.

Mainstream also plans noise and shadow flicker studies up front, as the proposed rules called for, Martin said.

"We trust the Zoning Board of Appeals and the county will provide appropriate scrutiny," he said.

When the proposed ordinance came up during Tuesday's County Board meeting, Seeberg, R-Ashton, wanted no discussion. He call for an immediate up-or-down vote.

Member David Gusse, R-Dixon, quietly asked, "No discussion?"

He didn't speak loud enough for Seeberg to hear him.

Member Lisa Zeimetz, R-Paw Paw, asked State's Attorney Henry Dixon whether the board could legally vote on the ordinance. He said yes.

Only four members voted for the ordinance – Gusse, Ed Fritts, Steve Kitzman and Bill Palen, all Dixon Republicans.

Afterward, Vice Chairman John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said he voted against it because it would have opened up the process to amendments that would effectively ban new wind farms.

He was referring to the objections of Hamilton and Willow Creek townships. They wanted a 2,000-foot distance between turbines and the property lines of nonparticipating landowners.

"This would have been the strongest wind ordinance in Illinois, yet we had people objecting to it," Nicholson said.

He said the zoning board "worked their butts off for 21 months" yet was chastised from both sides.

Member Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, said he opposed the ordinance because it included a home seller protection program. That program involved a complex process in which wind companies would compensate neighboring landowners struggling to sell their homes.

Mainstream opposed it mainly for the same reason. Its representative said the costs of the program would be too unpredictable.

The existing ordinance requires a setback of 350 feet away from the boundaries of nonparticipating landowners.

Over the years, however, the county has mandated that wind turbines be 1,400 feet away from homes on a case-by-case basis.

How they voted

Here's how Lee County Board members voted on a proposed wind energy ordinance:



Yes

David Gusse, R-Dixon

Ed Fritts, R-Dixon

Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon

Bill Palen, R-Dixon


No

Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon

Vern Gottel, R-Sterling

Lisa Zeimetz, R-Paw Paw

Gerald Leffelman, R-Sublette

Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn

Bernie Buckley, R-Dixon

Isaac Mercer, R-Dixon

Joe Patzer, R-Dixon

Tom Demmer, R-Dixon

Charlie Thomas, R-Dixon

John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove

Bob Stevens, R-Dixon

Ann Taylor, R-Amboy

David Chandler, R-Dixon

John Ferrone, R-Dixon

Marvin Williams, R-Dixon

Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy

Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton


Abstention

Arlan McClain, R-Dixon (who joined the board Tuesday)



Absent

Dick Binder, R-Compton

Kathy Hummel, R-Dixon

Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon

Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton

Jim Wentling, R-Dixon

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