Rankin regulates wind turbines near town

RANKIN — The village board has passed an ordinance to regulate the construction of wind turbines on farmland immediately outside Rankin's corporate limits.

The ordinance, approved 6-0 last Thursday, amends Rankin's zoning code to give the village regulatory authority over commercial and private wind turbines within 1 1/2 miles of the town.

Trustee Lynn Magers suggested the ordinance in February, saying she was personally concerned about possible "health issues" associated with wind turbines being built too close to homes. Vermilion County's wind-farm regulations allow 400-foot-tall commercial turbines to be built as close as 1,200 feet from a home.

Trustee Michelle Ingold said she, too, is concerned about the impact a wind farm could have on Rankin residents, but for a different reason.

"I think it's going to be more difficult for me to sell my home with a wind turbine in my back yard," said Ingold. "I've heard a lot of negatives from people that are living near them at this point, and that's my concern."

Rankin is the first municipality in Vermilion County to extend its zoning authority to surrounding farmland to regulate wind turbines.

But board members stressed that the new ordinance does not necessarily ban all turbines within 1 1/2 miles of Rankin. Developers or homeowners could still seek permission from the village to build turbines within that area, trustees noted.

However, during a public hearing held prior to adoption of the ordinance, Butler Township officials expressed concern that some developers might not look to build wind farms in Butler Township if Rankin issues an ordinance that appears to express an opinion against such development.

Trustees pointed out, though, that the nearby city of Paxton adopted a similar ordinance in 2009, but a proposed wind farm near Paxton still moved forward and was built last fall along Illinois 9.

"Paxton used this same law and the wind turbines still came in, so I don't want people to get the impression that we're trying to shut off all wind turbines, or that this is going to shut off all wind turbines," Trustee Lynn Magers said. "I just want people to realize that this doesn't necessarily mean no wind turbines for Butler Township."

Butler Township officials are hopeful a wind farm comes to the township. Such development would bring new property tax revenue to Butler Township that could be used to repair roads and bridges, for example.

At the board's February meeting, Butler Township Supervisor Dave Anderson noted the township's tax base is less than $12 million, but each wind turbine built would add $228,000 to that.

Without increasing the township's tax base, the burden on taxpayers is expected to continue to rise, Anderson said Thursday. Anderson said the township's population has fallen from 1,164 people in 2000 to 992 in 2010.

"We still are collecting the same amount of taxes," but the amount is spread among fewer taxpayers.

Butler Township road commissioner Marvin Rumble urged the village to help the township keep its taxes low by supporting wind-farm growth. Rumble noted that the township has done road work within village limits in recent years because Rankin did not have enough funds available.

"I don't know of any other way," Rumble said. "If you can find a factory or anything else to come in here, I'll support it."

Tom Theesfeld, a Butler Township trustee, also urged the board not to adopt the ordinance.

"I'm concerned about the fact that we could be limiting future growth here," Theesfeld said, noting that Rankin has lost most of its businesses in the last 30 years.

"If they put a wind farm in, the guys who work there might move to town for six months and they would spend money in town," Theesfeld said, "and that's way more activity than we've had in 30 years."

Vermilion County already has one wind farm under construction and several more proposed. Vermilion County's first wind farm — Invenergy's proposed California Ridge Wind Farm — is being built on 23,327 acres of farmland north of the Champaign County town of Royal and south of Gifford and Potomac.

Anderson said one wind-farm developer had lined up about 9,000 acres of farm land for a potential project in Butler Township but recently pulled its project. He said 28 turbines were to be built in the southeast corner of Butler Township.

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