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Flicker, noise rules added to DeKalb County wind ordinance draft

Property values, setbacks left to be addressed

SYCAMORE – Property values and setbacks have yet to be covered in the DeKalb County wind ordinance draft, but residents eventually may be able to sleep better at night because of some components that were passed Thursday.

The DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee passed several more elements of the ordinance draft during its special meeting. Those new components passed require no radio frequency and electromagnetic field interference as a result of wind turbines, a zero-tolerance policy for shadow flicker and flash, and sound level regulations including a maximum allowable level of 30 decibels from 10 p.m. to
7 a.m. and 35 decibels from
7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Committee member Kevin Burge said someone whispering would be the equivalent of 30 decibels. He also said industry standard of shadow flicker effects felt by neighbors not participating in wind tower agreements is 30 hours a year, which amounts to about 10 minutes every other day.

But, Burge said, “we’re saying no flicker at any time.”

Faivre said he has a background in advanced agriculture technology and that he has a hard time believing that a zero-tolerance shadow flicker regulation cannot be complied with, since sun position depending on time of day and season and terrain are constants.

“Because it’s a calculation – it’s not a guess,” Faivre said. “Short of an earthquake that shifts things around, we know where it’s at.”

Committee member Tracy Jones said it’s one of the biggest complaints that the committee has heard from residents concerned about the wind turbines.

“Other than setbacks, this is the most critical thing that we do,” Jones said.

Kevin Hickey, former chief deputy for the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and Shabbona resident, said that he lives near five wind turbines after they were built in 2009. He said he has spent thousands on extra power to constantly run fans to block out turbine noise, relocating trees to minimize shadow flicker and installing 6-inch insulation to help with outside noise on a new addition to his house in 2011.

Hickey said 3,000 feet – which is the furthest away a turbine is from his house – is not nearly enough and that he could count on two hands how many times he’s been able to sleep with his windows open since 2009. But, he said, he didn’t say anything at the time because he still was working for the county.

“Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve fought it,” Hickey said.

Jon Baker, senior project developer for EDF Renewables, said the company tries their best to limit the number of effects on nonparticipating residents as much as possible. Not only is it company standard currently, he said, EDF Renewables has no objection to going through the process of conducting studies up front to determine as many risks and to correct potential issues sooner rather than later. He also said industry standard for maximum sound levels experienced by nonparticipating residents is 45 decibels.

Baker said the newly-passed wind ordinance components would make it difficult for the company to make further investments on the project in DeKalb County, despite the about $3 million the company put into development work already.

“It just might not be a realistic standard to me,” Baker said.

Brad Belanger, head of the Concerned Citizens for DeKalb County, a group that opposes wind turbines, said he thinks the draft components passed Thursday are reasonable and that he appreciates county officials working through their summer break to get an ordinance passed.

“They’re listening to their constituents,” Belanger said. “They’re listening to the concerns that they have.”

The committee’s next meeting, where property values and setbacks are expected to be addressed, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 25 at the DeKalb County Legislative Center, 200 N. Main St.

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