SYCAMORE – DeKalb County residents will have an opportunity to discuss setback requirements Wednesday, during the county's Planning and Zoning Committee meeting.
The committee will go over setback standards outlined in other wind energy ordinances around the region during the 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Gathertorium in the DeKalb County Legislative Center, 200 N. Main St.
DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski Jr. said the moratorium to come up with a wind farm ordinance still is in effect through September. That comes after the County Board approved a solar farm ordinance that went into effect last month.
Pietrowski said the board is still in the research process for the wind farm ordinance, and there is no draft of the ordinance yet.
"We want to make sure it's right," Pietrowski said.
Dozens of residents aired their concerns about the wind farms that would occupy the northern half of DeKalb County during an April 26 meeting – which was meant to primarily touch on decommissioning regulations for wind turbines. Some of the concerns brought to the board included property values, hazards of parts flying from blades and into residential yards, harm to animals such as Freddie the Eagle, and health concerns related to sound emissions and blade shadow flicker from the towers.
P.J. Saliterman, development director of EDF Renewables, said during an April 25 meeting with Daily Chronicle staff that property owners generally don't experience shadow flicker beyond three times the tip height of wind turbines. He said making the setbacks any farther than that distance could doom a project, as has been the case in Boone and Iroquois counties.
Saliterman said the energy company will look to position turbines where owners won't experience those effects that might affect property values.
It's unclear who would pay if property values were to go down and it's demonstrated that wind turbines are to blame, but, Saliterman said, it's a tedious and convoluted process to prove that. He said people who rush to sell their properties after wind turbine installation affect others' property values, which he equated to panic selling.
Saliterman said it's hard to pinpoint what specific effects the upcoming ordinance will have on the project and property values.
"The devil will be in the details," he said.
Pietrowski said the County Board will try to specifically address the fear of shadow flicker from some residents during the Wednesday meeting. He said the board is looking at what setback distance can minimize that potential problem as much as possible.
Saliterman said EDF Renewables 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. He said three-quarters of 300 registered voters in the county were in favor of the project and called them the “silent majority.”
Saliterman said landowners need to show up and be in communication with township and county officials, along with highway supervisors.
"How many other opportunities does the county have to bring in a half-billion-dollar investment – an investment that's going to pay millions of dollars to schools, counties and towns?" Saliterman said.
Brad Belanger, chairman of Concerned Citizens for DeKalb County, has said the group formed about a year and a half ago to make sure residents’ concerns are heard on the wind farm project. He has said the organization's goal is to share concerns with the county systematically with each aspect of the wind farm ordinance as it is addressed and that, at this point, he is waiting to see how the entire ordinance process pans out.
Pietrowski said it's been great to hear from people, whether they are for or against the wind farms.
"We want to know and make sure that we have the most advanced ordinance around," Pietrowski said.