Proposed wind farm ordinance advances to full county board

URBANA – An ordinance to regulate wind farms in Champaign County will go to the full county board later this month.

Members of the county's Environment and Land Use Committee voted unanimously Monday night to send the ordinance to the county board for its May 21 meeting.

The committee rejected a request by the city of Champaign to extend its extra- territorial jurisdiction by 1 mile, pushing the zone around the city to 2½ miles.

After two hours of discussion, the committee did adopt language in the ordinance restricting "shadow flicker," which could disturb residents near a turbine tower, to 30 hours per year. They also added a clause to allow wind farm developers to remediate the shadow flicker by any means, such as shades, awnings or landscaping.

Champaign County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel, an ex-officio member of the committee, said he was happy to see the committee include the shadow flicker restriction.

Weibel told committee members that shadow flicker happens at sundown and sunrise, but that's normally when people look at the sun.

"It may only be 15 minutes a day, but it's the most important 15 minutes a day," Weibel said.

He said he would like to do more study on the issue to see if the 30-hour limit is appropriate.

It might be that the number of cloudy versus sunny days in Champaign County would make it different, he said.

Committee member Alan Kurtz, D-Champaign, an advocate for wind farms as an alternative energy source, said the ordinance is an important milestone and he expects full county board approval.

Passage of the ordinance will require a super-majority of 21 of 27 votes because Newcomb Township filed an official protest with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

On the other hand, Compromise Township officials are strongly in favor of the wind farms as way to generate revenue, according to Kurtz.

"This is not a partisan issue," Kurtz said after the meeting. "It's a nonpartisan issue."

The wind farms will generate millions of dollars of revenue for struggling schools, townships, fire districts and other small districts, he said. They will also create jobs and save jobs of teachers, he said.

Kurtz, Jon Schroeder and others on the committee were concerned that too broad a restriction on shadow flicker could kill any hopes of such a project in the county.

Tim Polz,, a senior project developer for Midwest Energy, said developers could "live with" an ordinance that allowed mitigation, but predicted there could be no such projects if an ordinance required a wind farm to tear down a turbine tower if somebody complained about shadow flicker.

"Shadow flicker can be a very subjective thing," he said. "It is very difficult to have a zero- tolerance rule. This is a risk we are not willing to take."

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