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Zoning panel rejects wind farm

PRINCETON – The Bureau County zoning board is recommending against a company’s proposed wind farm.

The Bureau County Board has the final say.

On Tuesday, the Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously rejected all 19 of Mainstream Renewable Power’s planned turbines. They were a part of a wind farm that would include nine turbines in Whiteside County and 53 in Lee County.

During the summer, the Whiteside County Board approved the nine turbines, with two also needing the village of Deer Grove’s approval. Lee County has been holding public hearings on Mainstream’s plan since July.

The Bureau County zoning board’s process has met 21 times since March on Mainstream’s proposal.

Before that, the county revised its wind energy ordinance, with Mainstream’s wind farm being the first test.

“The members felt a strong obligation to follow the ordinance,” member Barry Welbers said. “They did follow it stringently. Whether it’s the most perfect ordinance, that remains to be seen.”

Welbers said he voted down the turbines because the company’s plan didn’t comply with the ordinance.

For instance, the decommissioning plan, in the event of the turbines’ abandonment, was inadequate, Welbers said. Also, Mainstream didn’t provide a road-use agreement, which the ordinance required, he said.

“Their argument was that they were township roads,” Welbers said, adding that he didn’t think that made a difference.

Mainstream’s Matt Boss said his company would get the deliberation transcripts in the next few days to better understand the zoning board’s reasoning.

“We had a good project yesterday; we have a good project today,” he said.

Rick Porter, who represented residents against the wind farm, said he hoped the Bureau County Board put a lot of weight in the zoning board’s recommendation. County Board members rarely attend zoning board meetings, he said.

“The Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals was very attentive. They were vested in the process. They spent a lot of time understanding the issues,” he said.

However, the county board has rejected the zoning panel’s advice before. Last year, the board extended the permits for the proposed Walnut Ridge wind farm, contrary to the zoning board’s recommendation.

The county board’s Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to make its own recommendation on the Mainstream proposal during its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton. The Bureau County Board is expected to make a final decision at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the courthouse.

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