BLOOMINGTON — McLean County residents will get another chance to influence a new policy for local wind farms.
The county's Zoning Board of Appeals will host a second public hearing on the rules after McLean County Board members said Tuesday their constituents weren't given enough notice of a previous ZBA discussionn.
That hearing is likely to be at a special ZBA meeting in August, said County Administrator Bill Wasson. The next regular meeting when the hearing could occur is Sept. 6.
Building and Zoning Director Phil Dick said his office met its statutory requirement by publishing a legal notice about a June public hearing in the Pantagraph, but members said that's not enough for such an important policy.
"The legal requirement may have been met, but lacking information for the public, especially those impacted residents, is unacceptable," said District 2 Republican Catherine Metsker. The board requested staff inform local officials on a variety of levels about the second hearing.
The policy is intended to replace a vague ordinance, and “many of the things in our proposed text were imposed by the Zoning Board in previous special use permits," said Anna Ziegler, assistant manager at the McLean County Farm Bureau — which helped draft the rules.
Metsker proposed much stricter regulations related to decommissioning of wind turbines and property setbacks that Dick said "might be making it so you can't have turbines in the county." She withdrew her amendment in favor of more public discussion.
Metsker also complained about "the lack of openness" of the county's Building and Zoning office about wind farm projects. The office doesn't release information about potential construction unless paperwork is filed, leading Metsker to file a Freedom of Information Act request to find out about county discussions with two developers looking to build in northeast McLean County.
EDP Renewables and Invenergy are vying for land in Chenoa, Lawndale, Lexington and Yates townships to build a wind farm there. Neither has filed paperwork with the county pending land leases with local landowners.
"This should serve as a warning for the general public trying to maneuver in a system... that isn't as open as it should be," said District 4 Republican Mark Johnson, who complimented Metsker's work.