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:
David Gusse, R-Dixon
Ed Fritts, R-Dixon
Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon
Bill Palen, R-Dixon
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
Arlan McClain, R-Dixon (who joined the board Tuesday)
Dick Binder, R-Compton
Kathy Hummel, R-Dixon
Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon
Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton
Jim Wentling, R-Dixon