PAXTON — Members of the Ford County Board will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, to continue reviewing proposed changes to the county’s ordinance regulating wind farms.
Ten of the 12 members of the board met Monday night to try to come to a consensus on the changes. It was apparent, however, that disagreement persists — especially on the proposed new setback requirements and restrictions on shadow flicker and noise.
The board’s chairman, Bob Lindgren of rural Loda, asked each member to email him their opinions on those remaining points of disagreement in advance of the Nov. 5 meeting, during which there will be further discussion on those topics.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, the board’s five-member zoning committee had met numerous times to work on the ordinance changes. The hope was that agreement among the majority of the board could have been reached Monday night, allowing the proposed revisions to the ordinance to finally be sent to State’s Attorney Andrew Killian for his review.
Now, the hope — although perhaps a slim hope — is that it will take only one more meeting to get to that point. Board member Cindy Ihrke of rural Roberts said she feels it will likely take at least one more.
“It’s going to be one heck of a negotiation process, I think,” Ihrke said. “I don’t know where the end is now. The committee itself was real close to being ready to send (the ordinance revisions) to the state’s attorney for final review, but now we’re going to be back at the table, I guess.”
The good news for the board, however, is that the “public comment” portion of Monday’s meeting — which lasted about an hour — will not need to be completed again when the board continues the meeting next week. That will give the board a full two hours — the self-imposed limit for the length of its meetings— to discuss the ordinance and come to an agreement.
“Public comments will be over with,” County Clerk & Recorder Amy Frederick said, “so they can get down to business.”
Frederick said the Nov. 5 meeting will either be held in the board room in the basement of the county jail in Paxton or in the second-floor courtroom at the courthouse in Paxton.
Ihrke said she expects most of the discussion next week to focus on setbacks. The zoning committee has proposed a 2,250-foot setback from property lines in order to protect nonparticipating residents from the nuisances turbines can create, such as noise or shadow flicker, or the dangers associated with turbines catching fire or breaking. County board members’ opinions on the setback issue remain divided, though.
Ihrke said some board members want a reduced setback applying to farmground that is not occupied by a residence or used for recreational purposes, such as hunting. Some numbers that were “thrown around” Monday night, Ihrke said, were a setback of 1,000 feet from a property line or a setback of 1.1 times a turbine’s tip height.
In October 2017, the board implemented a moratorium on issuing any new special-use permits for wind farms until the rules are revised to better protect the county and its residents.
After agreement amongst board members appears to have been reached and then Killian completes his review of the proposed changes, the zoning committee will then vote on whether to recommend the full board approve the ordinance. For the county board to approve the revised ordinance, the Illinois Zoning Code requires that a super-majority — at least nine of the board’s 12 members — vote in favor.
Absent Monday were board members Dr. Bernadette Ray of Gibson City and Gene May of rural Paxton.