With an investment of 40 days and well over 100 hours of listening to sworn testimony, the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals has arrived at a very clear-cut decision to recommend to the Bureau County Board the denial of all applications of Walnut Ridge Wind LLC to erect an industrial wind complex in north central Bureau County.
I am just one of the many individuals that own a small acreage residential parcel within the boundaries of the proposed Walnut Ridge industrial wind complex. Just one of many who over the years have opted for the peace and tranquility of country living offered by rural Bureau County, a county steeped in agricultural heritage and tradition.
There has been much information made available to the public in the last few years describing the negative effects wind energy development has had on wildlife, domestic pets and livestock, and more importantly, human beings. There have been many places around the country and the world that have determined even a mile setback is too close if those negative effects are to be avoided.
In the case of our home, as well as our neighbors in close proximity to the east, west and across the road to the south, there are eight proposed turbines within a mile of our homes. Eight, ironically, the same number that the Brown County Wisconsin Health Department determined to be a major health hazard to the residents of that area. The interesting part of our situation, of those eight sites, seven are on land belonging to absentee landowners. People, residing in their safe-havens elsewhere, who apparently have no regard for the quality of life or property values of their former friends and neighbors. And it’s not just our neighborhood, the same scenario plays out over the entire project where a huge number of towers are being crowded into a relatively small parcel of land and a majority of those owners nowhere around. When questioned under oath, as to Walnut Ridge’s plan for addressing the many negative issues that were sure to arise, their responses were long on generalities and short on specifics.
During ZBA testimony, it became quite apparent that many inconsistencies existed between the recently adopted comprehensive plan for Bureau County and the scope of this proposed project. It is my understanding that in order for the comprehensive plan to be approved, it had to pass through every zoning board and committee of the county before ultimately being OK’d by the county board. There can be no excuse made that the document is antiquated or out of date; it’s less than 1 year old. The time is now for our elected and appointed officials to stand up and enforce the plan as written. Do otherwise, and the plan becomes just another useless document, with a large investment of time and money associated to it, but when the dust settles, is absolutely worthless.
Bureau County has a website (www.bureaucounty-il.com), that I’m guessing many people may not even be aware of. It is very well done. It extols the virtues of the county suggesting this is the ideal place to live, work and raise a family. There are a multitude of pictures, the Red Covered Bridge, scenes from the county fair and old threshers days south of Ohio, the Walnut Fourth of July celebration, the Princeton Homestead Festival and the DePue Boat Races; schools, churches, and just downright pretty scenes of landscape taken at various county locations. Strangely enough, nowhere in the entire website, is there any mention or photographs of wind turbines!
When wind energy development first darkened the door of Bureau County several years ago, there really wasn’t that much information available as to the adverse side effects these projects brought with them. That is no longer the case. The horror stories that used to be happening somewhere else are now being experienced on a daily basis by our very own citizens and residents of Bureau County. The elected officials that brought us the first wind development claimed, and rightfully so, “We didn’t know.” The time has now come for this county board to stand up for the well-being of the citizens of Bureau County. Please, do not replace “We didn’t know,” with “We don’t care!”