DeKALB – Steve Miller remembers how as a boy his family used to come to DeKalb County multiple times a year to view the pristine farmland in the area.
The threat of these farms being compromised by the development of wind turbines was one of the reasons that Miller, who lives in South Grove Township outside Kirkland, deceided to speak out against the construction of two wind testing towers in DeKalb County during a public hearing Thursday.
“I see this as a door opening up to bring in something that’s going to drive tourism away from this area, and it’s inevitably going to do the same for all those people with the lifelong dream of living here,” Miller said.
San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy has applied for a special-use permit to construct the 200-foot towers to measure the velocity and direction of wind in two fields in the northwest part of the county, to see whether it is economically feasible to construct turbines in the area.
P.J. Saliterman, EDF’s development director, said it can take at least 12 months for initial results, but if it was found that it would be profitable to construct wind towers, the testing poles would stay up for another 18 months after building began.
As part of the application process, the hearing was held in the DeKalb County Administration Building in Sycamore, where opponents of the towers overflowed the conference room.
Teresa Phillips, who lives the near sites where the towers are proposed, said that county officials should deny the permits before the talks on wind testing snowball into the construction of hundreds of wind turbines.
“I don’t see why we should put a test tower up if, in the end, it’s going to affect so many of my neighbors and myself,” Phillips said. “I wouldn’t want a wind turbine in my front yard, back yard or sidewalk, so why even test if we don’t even want this in our neighborhood? I believe this would cause terrible value to my property.”
Saliterman said the Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the towers would pose no hazard to aircraft. In addition, they would create no light, toxic runoff or noticeable noise and would not create any lasting nuisance to the community because the closest structures are hundreds of feet away from the towers.
As these temporary testing towers could be in place for years, DeKalb County Planning, Zoning and Building Director Derek Hiland asked hearing officer Dale Clark, who presided over the meeting, to consider a reasonable date for removal of the towers.
Sandra Feldt of DeKalb said that the planning department should develop a master plan on wind energy to assess the commercial impact on the community.
“It seems to me we’re standing on the edge of a transition from an agribusiness county to an energy business county, and I think it would behoove the planning commission to see what kind of effect wind energy would have on the county as a whole,” Feldt said.
The Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to meet Feb. 22 to discuss the project, with the County Board making a final decision on granting the permits at a later date.