BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
The issue of wind turbines remained up in the air on Thursday as the panel assembled to discuss the issue adjourned without a decision.
Selected county board members as well as other community representatives meet at noon Thursday to discuss comments and information provided by residents who attended a public forum on Monday regarding wind turbines.
Panel members talked freely for almost 90 minutes about not only the claims voiced by residents, but also a list of issues in connection with the turbines as well as possible actions.
Residents living in the current California Ridge Wind Farm have made claims of noise and shadowflicker problems from the turbines, contending that the county is ignoring their rights.
Panel member and County Board member Chuck Mockbee of District 2 said set back distances from the turbines are the just one of the issues facing the panel. He acknowledged residents want better set backs from the turbines to try to eliminate noise and shadowflicker concerns.
District 2 board Chuck Nesbitt has recommended to the county previously that residents not participating in the wind farm should have a ¼-mile set back from their property line and a ½-mile set back from their main structure.
“My biggest concern is if you decide to have those kinds of set back here, you’re not going to have any future development,” Mockbee said.
Steve Fourez, representing the Vermilion County Farm Bureau on the panel, questioned the distances, noting the claims made by residents on Monday indicated there was a lack of noise near the turbines but a much more audible disturbance from farther away.
“So are set backs even an answer?” he said, calling it a “paradox.”
A spokesman for Invenergy LLC — the owner of the California Ridge Wind Farm — indicated in communications with the county that such extended set backs would not allow the company to proceed with plans with a phase 2 expansion of California Ridge.
Panel member Linda Bolton of Vermilion Advantage said what the county can tell a resident about what they can and can’t do with their property is among the factors in the wind turbine debate.
“The challenge centers on property rights and who has them and who thinks they are being taken away,” she told fellow panel members.
Panel chairman John Alexander said following the meeting the lack of zoning laws for Vermilion County is a main issue.
“That’s a big dilemma when trying to address the issues here,” he said. “We’ve tried to address them as best we can without a proper zoning code.”
Recalling the zoning debate surrounding hog farms in the Rankin area 15 years ago, Alexander said he does not believe the county will embrace the idea of zoning.
According to Alexander, he did not expect to exit Thursday’s meeting with a firm decision among the panel members.
“It’s wise for us to sit back a little bit and digest what we’ve got and see if there are some epiphanies among us that could lead to some good solutions,” he said.
The panel is set to reconvene for more discussions at noon Wednesday on the third floor of the Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St.
In the end, he admitted any decision by the panel may not be suit everyone involved.
“I don’t have the perfect solution,” Alexander said. “I think you’ll have some upset people simply because we can’t address every issue and challenge in this situation.”
Prior to the panel meeting, county officials had intended on bringing any recommendation before the county board executive committee on Thursday and before the full county board for its May meeting.
Alexander said he would like to reach a conclusion for the panel at Wednesday’s meeting.
“We need to resolve the issue for the sake of the public as well for those companies that are looking to expand or enter Vermilion County with wind energy farms,” he said.