DANVILLE — In response to a request for a moratorium on any new wind farm construction, Vermilion County Board members decided Thursday night to schedule a public hearing, giving local residents the chance to voice any concerns they might have with the county's current wind turbine ordinance, particularly setback distances.
Vermilion County Board member Chuck Nesbitt, R-District 3, proposed to the county board's executive committee Thursday night a moratorium on construction that would allow the county to consider making several changes to the county wind ordinance, including increasing the setback, the minimum distance between a wind turbine and a primary structure, like a house. Currently, a wind turbine cannot be any closer than 1,200 feet from a primary structure, according to the county's ordinance. But Nesbitt proposed changing it to 1,320 feet from the property line and 2,640 feet from the closest primary structure.
Nesbitt said he has spoken with residents who live within the newly built California Ridge wind farm, about 130 turbines that stretch across west central Vermilion County and east central Champaign County, and some have concerns with noise and safety issues. He said one resident recently moved from the area, partly due to the wind turbines, because they were noisy and the blinking lights were annoying. Nesbitt said the value of the resident's property had decreased 40 percent in the last three years. Nesbitt also proposed making some changes to the county committee that grants building permits for wind turbines, including getting the committee involved in safety matters concerning wind turbine construction, day-to-day operations and maintenance, and decommissioning of all wind energy conversion systems in Vermilion County.
Several other citizens voiced their concerns, asking the board to consider a moratorium and changes to the ordinance.
But Hoopeston area farmer Larry Betka said he owns property in the north end of the county where another wind farm has been proposed, the Hoopeston wind project, and he does not support the increase in the setback, because that would eliminate so much ground from consideration for a wind turbine that it would effectively wipe out the possibility of any new wind farm development. Betka said he agrees with the current setback of 1,200 feet, because he wouldn't want a turbine any closer than that to his house either, but he doesn't support the proposal by Nesbitt.
After discussion among the county board committee members, John Alexander, R-District 6, proposed that the county hold a public hearing giving the public, especially residents in the area of the current wind farm, the opportunity to voice any concerns or problems they have with the turbines or the wind farm in general, and also the opportunity for those in support of wind farms to make comments. Alexander said he would like that type of input before considering a moratorium and any changes to the ordinance. Alexander asked that the public hearing be scheduled within 45 days.