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DeKalb County hearing officer verdict on wind ordinance not coming immediately

September 25, 2018

DeKALB – A DeKalb County hearing officer helped a few hundred residents stay on track throughout the day as residents provided their final input on the county’s draft wind ordinance that the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee passed last month.

The two public hearings were held Monday – one from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and the other from 6 to 9 p.m. – at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. The meetings were the last opportunity for public input about the ordinance.

Hearing officer Dale Clark said he anticipates taking a week or two after the hearings to review the ordinance and exhibits provided to him by residents who support the ordinance, are against it or recommend changes to the ordinance. He said he is working to have an official recommendation submitted to the county before late October.

“I definitely want to give a full review of what’s been submitted,” Clark said.

If the ordinance is approved by Clark after the public hearings, county officials have said next steps include sending the draft ordinance back to the committee and eventually sending it to the County Board. Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski Jr. has said the goal is to have an ordinance passed by November so current board members whose terms are expiring still will have a say in the draft.

DeKalb resident Pat Vary, a Northern Illinois University professor emerita of biology research, said she was on the County Board the first time the county considered wind turbines. She said she is in support of the ordinance but fears that the ordinance may be too restrictive for developers to actually build wind turbines in DeKalb County.

Vary said that, as a scientist, she has seen the charts and data and is concerned that renewable energy implementation efforts might be coming 40 or 50 years too late with climate change.

“And, frankly, I’m scared to death,” Vary said.

EDF Renewables representative Shanelle Montana said she is getting calls from other developers about how current proposed setbacks would be unworkable for future wind energy projects. She said she wanted to have more data and more testimony from national experts be considered in the ordinance decision as opposed to residential anecdotes.

“This is not balanced,” Montana said.

Representatives from the anti-turbine group Concerned Citizens for DeKalb County said they were in support of the ordinance and submitted stacks of documents for Clark’s and the county’s review, including peer-reviewed studies and data outlining health risks of people living near wind towers and more anecdotes of residents that weren’t able to attend the hearings. Lisa Bergeron of Concerned Citizens said she would still want the county to revisit having a larger setback than the current one of six times the tip height as outlined in the draft ordinance.

The County Board extended the moratorium that the county set on wind energy projects in 2017 to the end of this year during its meeting Wednesday evening. It originally was supposed to expire this month if the county didn’t pass a wind ordinance, but it has been extended to the end of the year or until the county passes a final ordinance.

Derek Hiland, community outreach coordinator for DeKalb County, said the draft is anticipated to be up for Planning and Zoning Committee consideration during its scheduled Oct. 24 meeting. He said the County Board meeting that is expected to include the ordinance in its agenda is scheduled for Nov. 21.

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