Wind turbine hearing draws crowd in Vermilion County

Wind turbine hearing draws crowd in Vermilion County

POTOMAC — As the owner of an engineering and surveying business, Ted Hartke said he benefited from the development of the California Ridge wind farm in Champaign and Vermilion counties.

But he lives in Hope within the wind farm, and he and his family are now struggling with noise from the wind turbines.

At a more than two-hour public hearing Monday night, Hartke told a Vermilion County Wind Advisory Panel and the approximately 130 people who attended the hearing in the Potomac Grade School gymnasium that since the wind turbines have been turned on, they have experienced a sound that wakes up him, his wife and children.

He said it's a low-frequency engine noise that's very bothersome at night. He said when you're lying in bed, it's like a diesel truck runnning outside the house.

He said he wakes up with his teeth clenched and his mouth hurts.

"I didn't know why I was waking up like that," he said.

Hartke said despite the noise issues they've been struggling with, he believes that there can still be wind farms. He said they help farmers, who lease their land, and improve the area roads, but the turbines are just too close to houses.

"I think there's a delicate balance that could be struck," he said.

Vermilion County Board members decided to hold the public hearing Monday night to give the public the opportunity to make comments concerning wind farms, particularly in regard to whether the county board should consider increasing the distance turbines can be built from property lines, houses and other structures.

Some residents, along with county board member Chuck Nesbitt, R-Catlin, have asked the county board to consider increasing its current setback, which is 1,200 feet from a turbine to a primary structure, which includes houses. Nesbitt has proposed some specific setbacks and other changes to the county's wind turbine ordinance.

Hartke and his wife, Jessica Hartke, who also spoke during the hearing, were two of more than 25 people who made comments for the record Monday night. Besides the Hartkes, there were several other residents who live within the California Ridge project who also talked about problems with noise from the turbines as well as shadow flicker and declining property values.

Other residents made comments supporting further wind farm development, talking about the economic benefit of the turbines and that increasing setbacks could eliminate the possibility of any more wind farm development in Vermilion County. Another project, the Hoopeston Wind project, has already been proposed in northern Vermilion and is being pursued by the company, Apex Wind Energy.

The public comments were officially being heard Monday night by a wind advisory panel, which includes county board members and economic development officials, which was organized for the purpose of considering all the information presented and making a recommendation to the county board on whether the county's wind ordinance should be revisited.

An Apex official also spoke during the hearing, confirming that if setbacks are increased it could eliminate any further development. The official said the county's setbacks are appropriate and that Apex does sound and shadow flicker studies and the setbacks Apex follows in its developments are based on good science and sound technology.

Pete Hatfield owns land in the proposed Hoopeston Wind farm project, and he said the county should leave its ordinance as it is. He said increasing the setbacks would eliminate wind development in the county. He said he understands there are concerns, but if wind mills are going to be regulated this closely, then why aren't cell towers regulated that closely. He said the government already controls enough of what's done on private land.

"We have to stop overregulating," he said. "While we must regulate to achieve a peacable society, please don't prevent a profitable society."

Mark Orsulak, another homeowner within California Ridge, said there is definitely noise not only from the blades turning but when the turbine repositions. He said property values have dropped within the farm, and he encouraged the panel to drive around and see how many residences within the farm are empty or for sale.

"The current setback rules are way too instrusive on those living among the turbines," he said.

Dan Ribbe, a Vermilon County business owner, said his company has done work on the California Ridge project and others in East Central Illinois. He said he has more than 45 employees, and the wind farms have been a benefit to his business and those employees who spend their money locally.

"This county has lost a lot, and it needs anything it can get. I think the wind farms are good," he said.

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