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Government Local

Dozens air concerns about proposed wind farms before county planning committee

SYCAMORE – Lisa Bergeron of Malta said during public comment at the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee meeting Wednesday at the Legislative Building, 200 N. Main St., that she comes from a family of farmers. She said she knows how something such as wind turbine farms could affect them and their neighbors, especially when it comes to preserving that kind of land.

Bergeron was one of dozens of residents who came to voice their opinions and concerns to DeKalb County Board members at the meeting about EDF Renewables building wind farms in the county. Wednesday’s meeting was meant to be a workshop and discussion on decommissioning standards with officials from other Illinois counties that have gone through the process.

The County Board is beginning to draft an ordinance on wind farms after approving a solar power ordinance that went into effect April 1. It passed a moratorium last year on the wind project development for 18 months, or until an ordinance for similar projects is drafted.

“I feel bad for all of you,” Bergeron said to the commission during public comment. “This is going to be a tough process.”

Many attendees wore stickers and brought in signs reflecting a stance against a wind farm being built in the county. Some said to the board during public comment that they are all for renewable energy for the county, but not in places where people live.

The board invited Lee County zoning administrator Chris Henkel to the meeting for a question-and-answer session about Lee County’s experience with wind farm decommissioning. Henkel said the county was one of the first in the state to have wind farms, and now it is starting to decommission them 13 years later.

Henkel said his county worked out an agreement with power companies that built the farms that they need to hold $40,000 a tower in escrow funds and give the escrows back to the county if the power companies decide to decommission towers.

Brad Belanger, chairman of Concerned Citizens of DeKalb County, said the group formed about a year and a half ago to make sure residents’ concerns are heard on the project. He said residents who are part of the group have cited several concerns on the project, including potential property value decreases and health concerns such as low-frequency noise levels and shade flicker from the blades in daylight. He said, at this point, he is waiting to see how the entire process pans out between EDF Renewables and DeKalb County.

“Our goal is to share these concerns with the county systematically as they go through this process,” Belanger said.

P.J. Saliterman, development director of EDF Renewables, attended the meeting to hear public comment. He also came and spoke to the editorial staff at the Daily Chronicle on Wednesday before the committee meeting.

Saliterman said the company partnered with national polling firm Fabrizio Lee and Associates to do a study of county residents’ attitudes toward wind development in DeKalb County and polled via phone calls. Out of 300 registered voters in the county, he said, three-quarters of them were in favor of the project. He called them the “silent majority.”

Saliterman said the sound of the wind turbines from 1,500 feet away would have the same sound rating as a running refrigerator. At that same distance, he said, any shadow flicker effects are limited to a few minutes a day at certain times of the year.

Carol Sibley of DeKalb said before the committee meeting that she also has safety and health concerns about the wind farm coming into the county and particularly is concerned about the property value of her farm – which, she said, has been in her family since the 1850s.

Sibley said she would like to see the entire process carefully mitigated before the county goes forward with a wind farm plan and to make sure the board thinks of all people and wildlife who would be affected by the project.

“I want [the County Board] to be sure all considerations are given to what all of the impacts will be,” Sibley said.

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