SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee agreed Wednesday to hold a second public hearing on whether to build two 200-foot-tall wind testing towers after the first hearing was criticized for being held in too small a venue and not giving enough public notice.
A special-use permit was requested by San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy to build the towers in South Grove Township south of Kirkland. The towers will measure wind speed and direction to determine whether the conditions are favorable to build wind turbines in that area.
The proposal received significant backlash during a public hearing last month from residents who were critical of the effect a wind farm would have on property values and how much of a nuisance it would be.
“It’s tough to sell property around windmills,” said Cindy Brown, who owns property in South Grove Township. “Voters entrust County Board officers to look out for their livelihood and preserve their lifestyle.”
Property owners in the area also were upset they didn’t receive proper notification of the hearing and that it was held in a small conference room at the DeKalb County Legislative Center in Sycamore, which could not accommodate the number of attendees.
Based on these concerns, DeKalb County Board President Mark Pietrowski made a motion to hold a second public hearing in a larger facility at a time when people are off work.
Pietrowski said the meeting likely would be in three weeks to a month, and people affected by wind towers or a potential wind farm would be notified when an exact date and time were selected.
EDF Development Director P.J. Saliterman said the additional meeting would not have any effect on the company’s plans to move forward with the meteorological towers.
Once the second hearing takes place, the Planning and Zoning Committee will rule on whether to recommend the towers’ construction to the County Board.
“Most people don’t understand that zoning decisions aren’t personal preference decisions,” said County Board member Tracy Jones, R-District 1. “We are the judge, and our job is to decide whether the applicant meets the criteria we have in place.”
The towers would be hundreds of feet away from any nearby building and would remain up for about 12 months. However, they would remain in place for another 18 months should a wind farm be approved on the property.
DeKalb County does not have an adopted ordinance regarding wind farms. A wind farm built in 2009 in Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships was under a special-use permit with specific criteria it had to follow.
Saliterman said this provides an unusual approach to EDF’s proposal.
In anticipation of a wind farm being developed from this proposal or others to follow, the board also agreed to put a moratorium in place on sustainable energy sources until a proper ordinance can be approved by the County Board.
Jones said that some of the steps in drafting an ordinance would be to conduct listening sessions with the public to gain their input and investigate other wind farms and existing ordinances in other counties.
“Now is the time to do this before we have another wind farm on our land,” Jones said.
He added that he was concerned about finding information within the county, as numerous people affected by the wind turbines already in place cannot comment on the farm because of a settlement agreement reached with NextEra Energy, who built the windmills.
Because Jones lives in the region that could be affected by wind turbines, he abstained from voting on the decision to hold a second hearing for the testing towers after speaking with the state’s attorney. He added that he was able to vote on the proposed energy ordinance.
The moratorium is expected to be heard at the next County Board meeting March 15.