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New wind ordinance draft components passed, others still in flux

August 10, 2018

SYCAMORE – While some new components of the DeKalb County wind ordinance draft were approved during the county’s special Planning and Zoning Committee meeting Thursday night, some were revisited and others were tabled until the next meeting.

The committee passed a mandatory setback of 1½ miles from municipal limits, while leaving a 1½- to 3-mile setback window at the discretion of city officials, which was endorsed by DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith and Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang, who also attended the meeting. Committee members also passed a 1½-mile setback from forest preserves and amended a previously passed component about tower decommissioning.

Previously, the committee passed a draft component that said wind energy companies must fully remove all of the in-ground concrete base when decommissioning a tower. The matter was brought up again by committee member Suzanne Willis after additional thought. The committee voted to make companies fully remove the concrete base as the default requirement, unless the property owner chooses to work out with the wind power company that only the amount recommended by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which currently is 5 feet deep, is removed.

“When we talked about it, this is a participating property owner,” Willis said, talking about the agreement being with a resident that voluntarily enters the contract, as opposed to a nonparticipating neighbor.

Committee members agreed to revisit protected wildlife setback components of the ordinance during the committee’s next meeting. More information was requested about technology that would help prevent a bird being hit by a blade or reduce the impact, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines.

Kathy Stelford, a Sycamore Township resident and founder of Oaken Acres Wildlife Center, said during public comment that there are three eagles nests in the county. She referenced Freddie the Eagle being hurt by a wind turbine and requested a 5-mile setback around the nests to protect the vulnerable species.

“To lose one eagle in DeKalb County threatens the entire population,” Stelford said.

Committee members also agreed to revisit the sound components, which were added during a previous meeting. EDF Renewables representative Jon Baker said the current sound regulation in the ordinance draft is lower than ambient noise that already is on affected property.

“This is something regularly exceeded by all types of background noise already in the community,” Baker said.

EDF Renewables representative Shanelle Montana said she thinks the county needs to decide whether it wants wind turbines.

“The current proposal as it stands restricts all development, not just EDF,” Montana said.

Lisa Bergeron, spokeswoman for the Concerned Citizens for DeKalb County group, said she appreciates the committee listening to resident concerns, but feels that they are backtracking already in the draft process when all of the components haven’t been discussed.

“But this is a hard process,” Bergeron said. “These concepts are difficult to understand, and that’s where it gets really, really confusing for people.”

Solar projects

Meanwhile, DeKalb County Hearing Officer Dale Clark did not make an immediate decision on whether to recommend approval for two more proposed solar energy projects in the county. The proposals from Summit Ridge Energy included two 2-megawatt panel arrays on about 17 acres, one between Waterman and DeKalb, and another near Sandwich.

Mark Raeder, spokesman for Summit Ridge Energy, has said both projects would be community solar farms that could power at least 300 homes a megawatt. He has said residents in ComEd service areas could get solar power from the projects and receive credits on their ComEd bills.

Raeder said the company’s typical policy is to confer with neighbors and address their concerns before bringing projects before the county. He has said the company intends on developing the projects in a way that benefits all parties involved.

Marcellus Anderson, assistant planner for DeKalb County, said no one that attended the meeting said during public comment whether they were for or against the solar projects. He said there were mostly were a lot of questions for the project managers from residents.

Anderson said the county usually receives a recommendation from Clark within a few weeks.

“At this point, we’ll wait and see what the hearing officer says,” Anderson said.

The next meeting for the county’s Planning and Zoning Committee is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22.

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