Seeberg: Townships' objections not properly filed

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DIXON – Does the Lee County Board need a three-fourths vote to enact wind energy regulations or a simple majority?

Two townships have filed formal protests against a proposed wind energy ordinance, which normally would trigger the need for a three-fourths supermajority.

At Tuesday’s County Board meeting, members delayed a decision on the ordinance. Later in the meeting, Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, said the board wouldn’t have needed a three-fourths majority had it come to a vote.

That’s because the townships hadn’t filed their objections to the proposed ordinance, he said.

At last month’s meeting, Bob Book, supervisor of Willow Creek Township in southeastern Lee County, provided a resolution on his township’s board objections to the ordinance. That’s reflected in the meeting minutes.

In an interview Wednesday, Seeberg said that wasn’t sufficient. He said it would have to be filed with him, Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel, the county clerk’s office or the state’s attorney’s office.

County Clerk Cathy Myers said neither township had filed their objections with her office – the proper place to turn regarding such documents.

Myers, Henkel, Seeberg and State’s Attorney Henry Dixon attended the meeting in which Book provided the resolution.

Roseann Para, a member of Willow Creek’s planning commission, said the township had presented its resolution at a meeting, which she said should be enough to trigger the three-fourths vote.

“The resolution was the only option the township had. It’s a way to say to the board that constituents don’t like something, so take another look at this,” Para said.

A representative of Hamilton Township, in southwestern Lee County, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Both townships want to increase the setback distance between homes and wind turbines.

The proposed ordinance calls for a distance of 1,400 feet or 3.5 times the height of a turbine, whichever is greater. In accordance with that rule, a 500-foot turbine would have a 1,750-foot setback.

The townships want a 2,000-foot setback, but from property lines, not homes’ foundations.

At Tuesday’s meeting, County Board members debated whether most people favored more wind farms.

Member Bob Stevens, R-Dixon, said most of the people sending him opinions on the issue supported wind energy. He said the same five or six people have been coming to meetings objecting to turbines.

But Vern Gottel, R-Sterling, said he’s been getting many calls against wind farm development. Gottel, who is also supervisor of Palmyra Township, said his township is considering recommending a setback longer than 2,000 feet. He wouldn’t say how long.

“Going forward, we need to look at this very carefully,” he said.

The board’s vice chairman, John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said people on both sides of the issue were civil months ago, but now discussions have become personal.

Someone is sending emails saying that Nicholson and his business have financial connections to the wind industry and the county, he said.

“I categorically deny relationships with either.”