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Panel: Wind farm will help economy

But member says many landowners live elsewhere

DIXON – Members of Lee County’s zoning board on Friday agreed a proposed wind farm would help the local economy, but they only took that concept so far.

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals is considering Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power’s proposal for 53 turbines in the county’s southwestern corner. 

One of the wind industry’s major arguments is that it boosts rural economies. To an extent, the zoning panel agreed. It voted for findings that the proposed wind farm would significantly increase tax revenue for local school districts, townships and the county government; greatly increase local employment during the construction phase; and add permanent jobs.

All of those findings were proposed by member Bruce Forester, who, along with the much quieter Gene Bothe, seemed most favorable to the wind farm.

The board’s majority, however, disagreed with his proposed finding that the project would add “significant dollars” to the local economy in the form of disposable income received by the wind farm’s host landowners. 

“The landlords who don’t live around here aren’t going to spend money here,” member Tom Fassler said. “They’ll spend money where they live. There’s a pretty good percentage who don’t live here.”

A 3-2 majority voted down the finding, with Fassler, Craig Buhrow and Mike Pratt against and Forester and Bothe in favor.

Later, the board unanimously approved a watered-down version of Forester’s finding, which stated that the project would add money to the economy. Members removed the word “local.”

In another finding, the board said it wouldn’t base its decision on the wind farm solely on an increase or decrease in revenue for taxing bodies.

Later in the hearing, a 3-2 board majority rejected a Forester proposal that stated that the noise from the turbines wouldn’t violate noise limits for agricultural property under Illinois regulations. Forester and Bothe dissented. 

Mainstream’s proposal is 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 one.

Public invited

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. April 23 in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The board will begin the decision-making process on the proposed Mainstream Renewable Power wind farm.

If needed, other meetings are scheduled for the same time and place April 24, 25, 26, 29 and 30.


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