By Bob Balgemann


BOONE COUNTY – As public hearings continue on new setback requirements for wind turbines, Mainstream Renewable Power is continuing its opposition, saying the proposed rules would keep such projects out of Boone County.

The second hearing will be held March 24, with the possibility of a third in April.

The zoning board of appeals’ (ZBA) recommendation will be considered by the planning, zoning and building committee meeting, which is held the first Wednesday of each month. That is a standing committee of the county board consisting of five board members.

Last stop for the proposed text amendment to the Boone County Zoning Ordinance will be the county board, which meets the third Wednesday of each month.

The Chicago law firm of Schain, Banks, Kenny and Schwartz Ltd. has written letters to the ZBA, concerning the text amendment.

Here are some excerpts from the second letter, dated Feb. 20, which addressed the revised application submitted by David Cleverdon of Caledonia and Karen Kenney of Capron.

“The new language in the proposed text amendment does not cure the constitutional invalidity of the prior language, and the new provisions will prohibit development of wind energy projects in Boone County. Accordingly, the objections previously raised in my Jan. 27, 2015, correspondence applies to the new proposal, and Mainstream therefore opposes the new amendment for the same reasons.

“The new text amendment again includes a minimum property line setback of one-half mile, or 2,640 feet. As Mainstream previously demonstrated, this setback precludes development of wind energy projects in Boone County, since the setback from the property line alone requires the host parcel to be more than one mile by one mile in size.”

Attorney John R. Griffin, who wrote the letter, included a map showing that if a 2,640-foot setback was applied from every property boundary in the county, no land area would be eligible for a wind turbine.

While the revised text amendment includes a provision allowing a “participating landowner” to partially waive the setback requirement, Griffin wrote that it would not make any difference.

“Land use rights cannot be contingent upon receiving special permission from a neighboring property owner,” he stated. “…therefore, the county’s ordinances must allow for wind energy projects without making the use contingent upon special permission.”

Staff recommendation

The city-county planning staff does not support increasing the existing setback, which is 1,000 feet, or 1.1 times the height of the tower, from the property line.

Planners agreed with Mainstream that a 2,640-foot setback or 5.5 times the height of the tower, whichever is greater, “would not allow towers to be constructed in Boone County.”

Further, that would be in contradiction with Section of the county zoning ordinance, whose purpose is “to promote the supply of wind energy in support of Illinois’ statutory goal of increasing energy production from renewable energy sources.”

“There is no submitted evidence to support the need for the greater setback,” planners stated. “If the Illinois Tollway Authority, the Illinois Department of Transportation, local municipalities or other utility providers felt that such a setback was required, it would currently be written in their guidelines.”

While the county health department and highway department has no comments on the text amendment, there were mixed responses from North Boone Fire District 4 and from Bonus Township.

The 8,000-acre wind farm being proposed by Mainstream is in Manchester and Leroy townships. Bonus Township voted 4-0 against the text amendment, viewing it as “excessive,” with no facts “to substantiate the safety and health concerns specifically referred to in the application.”

Planners inform each of the nine townships about cases before the ZBA. Bonus was the only one to respond.

Manchester earlier wanted to establish its own setback requirements, but ultimately was told it could not contradict what was in the county zoning ordinance.

Fire District 4 voted 2-0 with one abstention to recommend accepting the amendment.

“The biggest problem with wind turbine fires is that, because of the turbine height, the fire department can do little but rope off the area and watch the fire burn itself out,” wrote the board president, Kerry B. Kenney, in an undated letter.

“While this may be acceptable in reasonably still conditions, in a storm setting it means burning debris being scattered over a wide area, with obvious consequences. From a first responder’s viewpoint, with further setbacks from roads, houses and property lines, we feel this gives greater safety to the community we serve.”

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