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Lee County wind: Board leader pushes compromise

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DIXON – The chairman of the Lee County Board still supports a proposed wind farm, but he is pushing a compromise that would include strong conditions on the project.

Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, said he and others are working on the conditions. He provided few details.

Last month, the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-2 to reject Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power’s proposed wind farm for the county’s southwestern corner.

In rejecting the 53 turbines, the zoning board majority contended the project would hurt the rural character of the area. They also said the company failed to reveal the turbine model it planned to use, which would have an effect on the project’s noise. It also lacked a plan for taking down the turbines after the project ends.

The 24-member county board, which has the final say, is expected to vote on the matter Tuesday.

A day after the zoning board’s decision last month, Ketchum said he would vote to overrule the lower panel’s recommendation.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Ketchum said the county’s wind farm regulations weren’t strong enough, which he said prompted the effort to impose conditions on the Mainstream project.

He wouldn’t say who he was working with in drafting the conditions, but he said Mainstream wasn’t involved.

One of the conditions would involve a longer setback than the usual 1,400 feet between homes and turbines, he said, but he wouldn’t say exactly how far.

“The conditions won’t be totally mine,” he said. “We want conditions that are strong, but not enough to stop the project. We think the conditions are fair, but the wind farm (company) may not like them.”

He predicted a close vote.

In a story last month, most county board members interviewed declined to state their views on the wind farm.

Supporters of wind farms say they dramatically boost property tax revenue for government entities such as schools.

Mainstream’s proposal is part of a three-county wind farm, which includes Whiteside and Bureau counties. Last year, Whiteside County approved nine turbines, while Bureau County’s zoning panel recommended against Mainstream’s plan for 19 turbines, saying it didn’t meet the county’s requirements. Mainstream withdrew its proposal in Bureau County, saying it planned to submit a new plan.

The Lee County Board will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.

The board is expected to consider a wind farm in the southwestern part of the county.

For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to www.countyoflee.org or call 815-288-5676.

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