Wind Farm

By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – The first meeting on a proposed increase in the distance between a wind turbine and someone’s property line was held in January, before the Boone County Regional Planning Commission.

Tonight will mark the fifth public hearing before the Boone County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). It will begin at 7 p.m. in the county administration building, 1212 Logan Ave., Belvidere.

The way things have been going it may be the holidays, or later, before the county board has received the required number of recommendation and makes a decision.

David Cleverdon of Caledonia and Karen Kenney of Capron filed the proposed text amendment that’s currently under consideration by the ZBA. The purpose is to “assure the protection of health, safety, welfare and property values for all Boone County residents and landowners…”

Mainstream Renewable Power, based in Dublin, Ireland, talked about developing an 8,000-acre wind farm in northeastern Boone County. Its boundaries are North Boone School Board on the south, the Wisconsin state line to the north, Grade School Road on the west and the McHenry County line to the east.

The project would include upwards of 100 wind towers approximately 529 feet in height. Mainstream has yet to apply for the special use permit needed to do the project.

At issue right now is whether the setback, currently 1,000 feet, should be increased to 2,640 feet or 6.5 times the height of the tower, including the blade at the highest point, whichever is greater.

So far only one of three required recommendations has been made.

It was the planning commission’s responsibility to determine if the text amendment was in compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan.

Member Tony Savino’s motion Jan. 20 that it was in compliance was voted down, 2-3. He and member Matthew Branom voted yes, with opposition from commission Chairman Dave Bippus, Vice Chairman Richard Gadke and member Rachel Bacnrodt.

The ZBA’s recommendation will be on the text amendment.

PZB is next stop

Once that is made the issue will move on to the planning, zoning and building (PZB) committee, which also will deal with the amendment. This is one of seven standing committees of the county board and consists of five county board members: chairman Denny Ellingson, vice chairman Paul Larson and members Kenny Freeman, Raymong Larson and Brad Stark.

Then the county board will have the final say.

Kathy Miller, interim planning director for the county and city of Belvidere, set the stage at the outset of the planning commission meeting.

She said it was that body’s responsibility to determine whether the proposed text amendment was in compliance with the county comprehensive plan. That meeting was not a public hearing, with public comments allowed later in the meeting.

While the impact of the proposed setback was not at issue, it did come up several times during the commission meeting.

Gadke recalled a conversation he had with Nancy Schilling, attorney for the applicants, during the Jan. 16, 2015, meeting of the Leroy Township Planning Committee. (The proposed wind farm would be located within both Leroy and Manchester townships).

He said it was his opinion that the requested setbacks were an effective wind ban targeted to Leroy Township. He asked Schilling why her clients didn’t simply requested a wind energy ban in Boone County?

Schilling answered that the applicants were not requesting a wind ban in Boone County. In her opinion, the proposed 2,640-foot setback would not constitute a wind ban.

Rather, she said if the population density of Boone County would not accommodate the requested setbacks, ones that have been adopted in other states for health and safety reasons, then this would be a density issue, not a wind energy ban.

She added that other states had adopted larger setbacks.

Mainstream and county staff both have said the requested setback would prohibit a wind farm from being developed anywhere in Boone County.

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