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CLINTON — The potential effects of wind farms on wildlife and aircraft highlighted the first night of testimony Monday as the DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals looks at changes to the ordinance governing such facilities.

Lenexa, Kan.-based Tradewind Energy is considering building the Alta Farms II wind farm in DeWitt County on a footprint stretching from Waynesville to Wapella. Opponents, many of whom testified Monday in the hearing at the county building in Clinton, want the county to change the wind farm ordinance before Tradewind files an application for a special-use permit, which is expected to come later this summer.

Any ZBA recommendations would go to the County Board for approval.

"The bald eagle is the symbol of strength and freedom in America," said Lauren Johnson of Wapella. "As citizens, it is our duty to protect the eagles, which have now come to DeWitt County. The special joy we have from having the eagles near us may be ripped from us for monetary gain."

The ZBA on Monday rejected by a 6-1 margin requiring developers to submit all required federal, state and local regulatory agencies' reports, certifications and approvals to the county to demonstrate compliance with changes.

"I don't see the problem with putting everything in writing," said board Chairman Andy Hedrick, the only board member to vote in favor of the ordinance change.

Board member Dave Waters said the county can add any stipulation or condition it chooses when approving a special-use permit.

The board later voted in favor of requiring wind farms to have an aircraft detection lighting system despite objections of company officials. The system would activate lights on the turbines only when it detects an approaching aircraft.

"As these regulations stack up, it becomes harder and harder to know what we have coming our way," said Joe Ard, Tradewind Energy's vice president of wind development. "The ordinances now in effect are among the most stringent and sophisticated we have ever encountered."

Tradewind Energy Development Director Tom Swierzcewski told the board approval of all amendments could put the proposed project in danger.

"There is an attempt by a small group of people to stop wind power in DeWitt County," he said.

The ZBA will reconvene at 7 p.m. Wednesday to consider the remaining four proposed changes. They are:

  • Lowering the acceptable noise level limit from a turbine from 50 dBA (a measurement of the relative loudness of sounds) to 37 dBA.
  • Setting a standard for shadow flicker caused when rotating blades cast moving shadows on the ground.
  • Mandating an analysis verifying turbines will not interfere with public communication.
  • Establishing setbacks from property lines instead of from existing homes for turbine locations.

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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