Wind farm public hearing Monday, Aug. 17
By Jim Hagerty, Staff Writer
Winnebago County citizens will be given opportunity to voice their concerns to zoning officials about the possible construction of an area wind farm at a public hearing Monday, Aug. 17 at Memorial Hall.
The project, a 100-turbine farm, is being proposed in parts of Stephenson, Ogle and Winnebago counties by Navitas Energy, a Minnesota company. About 40 turbines would be on private farm land in Winnebago County.
Zoning ordinances do not currently contain stipulations for wind farms. Monday’s public hearing is the first step in what could be a lengthly process as zoning representatives review the contractor’s application to bring the project to the area.
“The ordinances will be reviewed, voted on by [zoning] committee, then brought before the Board,” Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) said.
Some property owners, and others, are against the Navitas project, citing several negative effects it could have on wildlife and real estate values.
“Most people are not aware that utility-scale wind turbines in western Winnebago County and Ogle and Stephenson counties would dramatically change the rural landscape of the area,” Jerry Paulson, Executive Director of the Natural Land Institute, said. “The public needs to attend these hearings on the ordinance to learn more about what is being proposed and to make sure that the construction of hundreds of wind turbines have minimal impacts on wildlife.”
Experts are especially concerned about how the farm could disrupt the flyway routes of an experimental flock of whooping cranes that migrate through parts of Winnebago County. Most are calling for the project, if approved, to follow guidelines set by the American Wind Energy Association and include consultation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before construction begins.
Navitas spokespeople said they are aware of the guidelines and the crane population and would turn the turbines off when the birds are known to be in the area. Officials claim modern turbines are safe and propose minimal threat to wildlife.
Seward resident, John Nash, refused an offer from Navitas to lease part of his 200-acre farm. Nash is among several landowners against the project, citing claims property values would suffer, unsighliness of the turbines and lack of need for wind energy.
“The six or eight thousand [dollars] per unit isn’t worth it. It’s like having a 40-story building in your back yard,” Nash said. Each turbine would stand about 400 feet.
It is not known if Navitas represntatives will take part in the forum. The Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s office is representing the county’s position, which, by turns, may not be known until the legislation process progresses.
The hearing starts at 4:30 p.m. Memorial Hall is at 211 N. Main St., downtown Rockford.
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