MALTA – DeKalb County is one step closer to seeing more than 100 wind turbines erected on its landscape after the county board planning and zoning committee voted unanimously Wednesday night to grant a conditional special-use permit to NextEra Energy Resources that would allow the company to build the turbines.
About 100 people attended the meeting in the 285-seat Jenkins Auditorium at Kishwaukee College, many of them adamant opponents to the wind project. No public comment was allowed at the meeting, in keeping with county board policy of not allowing comments on topics that were already subject to a public hearing, said committee chairman Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore. Andersen noted that approximately 26 hours of public testimony have been taken on the subject over the course of two public hearings.
County planner Paul Miller read through a list of 34 conditions staff recommends be tied to approval of the special-use permit. Among the conditions were a requirement for building and site development permits for each turbine, a bond to decommission turbines, a guarantee to offset additional costs for crop spraying, setbacks from structures and property lines, an arbitration process and a property value guarantee.
The committee amended the property value guarantee to give property owners the right to request a third appraisal if they are not happy with a property appraisal and to require NextEra to buy a home at fair market value if it does not sell within six months and an independent appraiser confirms it is because of the wind farm.
The committee agreed to a proposal by Pat Vary, D-DeKalb, to reduce the number of hours a residence can be subjected to "shadow flicker" – a phenomenon in which the shadow of the turning blades creates a strobe-like effect – from 40 hours per year to 30 hours per year.
"I think there's been enough discussion about shadow flicker, enough concern about it, that we need to cut down the amount of time anyone is subjected to it," she said.
The company submitted its proposal in early January, and a February public hearing was postponed because the venue was too small. A March 21 hearing lasted nearly 19 hours, and hearing officer David Dockus recommended the committee not approve the permit because of several concerns with the proposal. NextEra submitted supplemental information to address the concerns, and Dockus recommended approval of the proposal after a two-day hearing May 11 and 12.
NextEra, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light, has proposed a total of 151 turbines for the project. Of those, 119 are in unincorporated DeKalb County and in Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships. Other turbines are proposed for Lee County and the village of Shabbona, both of which have approved them, and for the village of Lee, which has not acted on the proposal.
The special-use permit request is scheduled to be heard by the county board June 17.