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DeKalb County committee passes parts of wind ordinance draft

Steve Faivre, DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee chairman, listens to a public comment on wind ordinance considerations during the committee's special meeting  Wednesday.
Steve Faivre, DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee chairman, listens to a public comment on wind ordinance considerations during the committee's special meeting Wednesday.

SYCAMORE – Progress is being made on a DeKalb County wind energy ordinance, ahead of an 18-month moratorium that was passed last year and is in effect until September or until an ordinance is passed.

The DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee passed several motions on the wind ordinance draft during its Wednesday meeting. Those motions included adding a 500-foot height restriction, mitigating blinking lights on the towers, full concrete foundation removal in tower decommissioning and guaranteed road maintenance coverage by the company by the end of a wind farm project.

Potential economic benefits to a proposed wind farm project by EDF Renewable Energy, including more than 400 jobs and about $25 million in
30 years split among schools in the county, were discussed during the special committee meeting. But County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski said the committee’s main concern with the ordinance is to protect county residents.

“It finds that balance between property owner rights and neighbors’ rights,” Pietrowski said.

PJ Saliterman, development director for EDF Renewable Energy, said the company’s hope was to include 580-foot wind turbines in its northern DeKalb County wind farm proposal and, with technology advances, taller turbines could mean fewer turbines for the same power in the future. So, he said, the passed tower height restrictions put the company’s project at a disadvantage.

“But we can definitely make a go of it with a cap of 500 [feet],” Saliterman said.

About 100 people attended the Wednesday meeting, which came after more than a dozen people addressed the committee about issues such as setbacks and potential health problems during public comment at the committee’s May 24 meeting. The next special meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 12.

Committee Chairman Steve Faivre said County Board officials are using Boone County’s existing ordinance for wind turbines as a skeleton for DeKalb County’s draft, since it’s one of the more recent ordinances passed in the state. He said the DeKalb County ordinance might structurally look like Boone’s but every part most likely will be reworked.

Faivre said the goal is to have a final wind ordinance passed by the Oct. 17 County Board meeting. Next steps beyond that include a public hearing, the draft going back to the committee and then to the board.

“We’re trying to look for information that we can use to fill out and put flesh and bones on the skeleton that we got from the staff,” Faivre said.

The committee also approved a proposed special use permit, which was recommended for approval by the county’s hearing officer earlier this month, from Borrego Solar Systems Inc. to install a community solar garden in Milan Township. Faivre said this type of approval process also would apply for EDF Renewables when the time comes.

Brad Belanger, chairman of Concerned Citizens for DeKalb County, said he was satisfied with what the committee passed Wednesday. He said the committee’s bit-by-bit passage approach in creating the ordinance draft is reasonable, since there are a lot of components going into the ordinance.

“I’m excited to see how other bulletpoints or topics pan out,” Belanger said.

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