DIXON – A proposed Lee County wind farm has a fighting chance.
The project suffered a big setback Wednesday when the county’s zoning board voted 3-2 to reject it.
But the 24-member County Board has the final say.
On Thursday, County Board Chairman Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, said he would vote against the lower panel’s recommendation.
Two other members, Marvin Williams, R-Dixon, and Ann Taylor, R-Amboy, agreed with Ketchum.
Three others backed the zoning board’s decision: David Gusse, R-Dixon, Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn, and Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon.
Ten members said they were undecided, and seven could not be reached for comment. One board position is vacant.
Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power proposed 53 turbines in Hamilton and East Grove townships, in the county’s southwestern corner.
A slim majority of zoning board members said the project would hurt the rural character of the area. They also said the company had failed to reveal the turbine model it planned to use or to provide a plan for taking down the turbines if the project ends.
Members also questioned whether it was wise to put a wind farm in a flood plain.
The zoning board’s decision ended a decade in which the wind energy industry largely drove the county’s approval process for wind farms.
Sauk Valley Media tried to reach every County Board member about the proposed wind farm.
Ketchum, who became board chairman in December, said he would “certainly” vote to override the zoning board. The foes of the wind farm were the minority, he said, but better organized than the proponents.
Williams said he had no problem with wind turbines as long as they don’t infringe on neighbors’ rights.
“We need something to generate tax revenue,” he said. “I think we should go forward with it.”
Taylor said she had always favored wind turbines.
“I have stood under them for several hours,” she said. “I really can’t see the objections.”
Gusse, however, said it would be “damn foolishness on our part” to approve the wind farm after the zoning board held 80 hours of meetings to review the project. He said he didn’t like the idea of putting a wind farm in a flood plain.
Truckenbrod said she was against the project.
“Considering the problems we’ve had in this county [with wind farms], it would be hard to watch us go through that again,” he said.
Many residents who originally had positive or neutral views about wind farms, she said, have turned against them.
“I don’t know anyone who has gone from negative to positive,” she said.
Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, said the project would bring in more tax revenue, but that’s not the purpose of zoning.
“We need to look beyond money,” she said. “There are concerns about the health effects. We need to keep people safe.”
Dick Binder, R-Compton, said he was leaning against the project, but said he would make no commitment before getting more information.
Bernie Buckley, R-Dixon, put himself in the undecided camp, but he was concerned about decommissioning.
“I think there are too many loose ends out there still,” he said.
John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said he was undecided. But he wanted to know why the zoning board rejected the wind farm after voting for a finding of fact that the petition complied with the county’s wind energy ordinance.
The County Board is expected to vote on the wind farm at its May 21 meeting.
Mainstream’s proposal was part of a three-county wind farm, which includes Whiteside and Bureau counties. Last year, Whiteside County approved nine turbines, while Bureau County’s zoning panel recommended against Mainstream’s plan for 19 turbines, saying it didn’t meet the county’s requirements.
Mainstream withdrew its proposal in Bureau County, saying it planned to submit a new plan.
How they'll vote
How do Lee County Board members plan to vote on Mainstream Renewable Power's proposed wind farm?
Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy
Ann Taylor, R-Amboy
Marvin Williams, R-Dixon
David Gusse, R-Dixon
Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon
Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn
Dick Binder, R-Compton
Bernie Buckley, R-Dixon
Tim Deem, R-Dixon
Bob Gibler, R-Dixon
Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon
Gerald Leffelman, R-Sublette
Isaac Mercer, R-Dixon
Wes Morrissey, D-Amboy
John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove
Bill Palen, R-Dixon
Unavailable for comment
Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton
Kasey Considine, R-Amboy
Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling
Tom Kitson, R-Dixon
Arlan McClain, R-Dixon
Jim Wentling, R-Dixon
Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon
NOTE: The County Board has 24 members. One position was left vacant with the recent resignation of David Chandler, R-Dixon.