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TIMELINE: Christian County zoning appeal regarding wind turbines

Christian County wind turbines
Paul Chandler/Flickr photo

TAYLORVILLE — The Christian County Board of Appeals has been busy with a dispute regarding wind turbine project proposals. The following is a brief of all zoning board of appeals sessions since June 23, 2020 for Christian County.

Session 1: June 23, 2020

The first session of the appeal was on June 23 in a three-hour affair of arguments and evidence. There would also be spoken concerns about the projects. Board members Steve Sipes, Joe Dorr, Mark Dozier, Joann Howard, Jon Rosenthal, Glen Goodrich and David Copenbarger were all present.

Opening statements were allowed from all parties involved in the dispute. They would include Rolling Wind Farms and City of Roses Wind Energy. Members of the Christian County Board and zoning administrator Vince Harris were also present to speak.

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Pavan: Turbines are built taller and more efficient

Michelle Pavan, a City of Roses Wind Energy representative, states that the turbines are being built taller and more efficient. Therefore, this means there is more power generation with fewer structures going up. Pavan would also add incentives regarding tax benefits.

Snyder: Tech issues could invalidate proceedings

Thomas Snyder Sr. would speak alongside Protect Christian County, LLC attorney Phil Leutkehans. He made the board aware that multiple people could not listen in or login on to the hearing. Technical issues would make the meeting null and void. In turn, this would be in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act, according to Snyder. Both Snyder and Sipes would have a heated debate that would run through most of the evening.

Snyder would express frustration about the lack of public comment time to inquire of the witnesses and individuals providing evidence. This is a violation of the Open Meetings Act. It could potentially be in violation of Robert’s Rules of Order.

While it isn’t a requirement in Robert’s Rules of Order, public comments have always been a part of parliamentary procedure. Therefore, the board of appeals is bound to Article XI of Robert’s Rules of Order regarding meeting sessions.

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Thunder: You can’t expect homeowners to build sound barriers for sound pollution

Thomas D. Thunder, a licensed audiologist and board-certified noise engineer, spoke on the decibel levels of wind turbines. He would state that homeowners cannot simply close their windows to block the noise pollution. They cannot retreat indoors, wear earplugs at night or construct a tall noise barrier to shield themselves from the noise.

Willhite: Why aren’t you thinking about the animals?

Natural resources expert Beth Willhite spoke out against the wind farms. The topic in specificity was the damage they could do to animals, specifically birds.

Tillman: Your setbacks are outdated

Professional engineer and Lake Land College instructor Joe Tillman states that the setbacks under consideration are out of date. Tillman further explains that they have been out of date by at least three years.

The session would continue on June 24 as this session adjourns.

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Session 2: June 24, 2020

At least 63 people wanted to speak. With Illinois and Christian County moving to phase four, chairman Steve Sipes was hopeful there’ll be an in-person public hearing.

Punch: Noise levels vary, setbacks should be further away

Testimony would continue as Protect Christian County calls Jerry Punch to testify. Punch, an audiology graduate from Northwestern University, states that noise levels from wind turbines can vary quite a bit.

Punch adds that setbacks would need to be at least 1.5 miles back.

Leutkehans: No one should have to live with shadow flicker

Attorney Leutkehans spoke on the reasoning for the amendment proposals from the group. He additionally cites that no one should have to live with shadow flicker.

Leutkenhans continues by stating there are not a lot of experts in this field. He additionally states that people should make up their own minds about wind turbines.

While Leutkehans says there hasn’t been an issue with decommissioning wind turbines in Illinois, it has happened in other states. As a result, it became a nightmare to affected communities following the decommissioning of the turbines.

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Allen: Agrees with Willhite remarks from prior night

Ornithologist Larry W. Allen relays statements made the prior night by Beth Willhite. Those remarks were in regard to the impact the turbines would have on animals, specifically birds.

Prior to the continuance, both Leutkehans and City of Roses Wind Energy attorney Jim Griffiths argued over rebuttal times. The board would increase rebuttal time to 45 minutes before adjourning to their next session on June 30.

Session 3: June 30, 2020

The board was able to reconvene June 30 before a small crowd, although mostly remote.

Attorney Jim Griffiths would call witnesses on behalf of City of Roses Wind Energy in favor of the wind turbines.

Hankard: Turbine noise levels will fit under noise limits

Noise consultant Michael Hankard spoke on the wind turbine noise levels, stating that they would fit under the noise limits.

Ellenbogen: No diseases come from wind turbines

Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen, a neurologist and sleep study doctor, states that no diseases come as a result from wind turbines.

Other witnesses would testify, with Griffiths finishing his testimony with a closing statement. Moreover, Griffiths states that landowners are completely reliant on other landowners to get these wind turbines.

Protect Christian County attorney Phil Leutkehans presented questions as part of his cross-examination. Additionally, zoning board members were able to ask questions as well.

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Testimony from interested parties began with a powerful speech from Daniel Nolan. Nolan states he has a child with a medical condition and believes his child could suffer harm by the turbines. He would speak on behalf of his family. Finally, he would close by stating that Christian County should support all of the people residing in the county.

The board would adjourn to a continuance on July 6.

Session 4: July 6, 2020

The fourth session of the Christian County Board of Appeals would continue to hear testimony Monday. Amendments regarding proposed wind turbines in the county are under consideration, involving the size and setback zones of the turbines.

Nolen: More studies should be done about potential groundwater contamination

Jeff Nolen, a plumber from Stonington, spoke about the potential contamination of groundwater. Nolen notes that the moratorium is important so more studies can be done about what water issues could come forth.

Wehmhoff: Is this the right time to enter an uncertain situation?

Anthony Jay Wehmhoff presses the question as to whether this is the right time to enter into an uncertain situation.

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Curry: Potential river floodplain impacts

Lonni Curry, who resides within Prairieton Township, speaks on the issues the turbines could create for the Sangamon River floodplains. Estimations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency show that wind turbines could negatively impact the river floodplains throughout the county.

The meeting would adjourn to a continuance of proceedings Tuesday.

This is a developing story and we will update you on further proceedings as part of this report.

MANDATORY CREDIT: All audio segments come from the Miller Media Group/TaylorvilleDailyNews.com.


For more Illinois news, follow Jake Leonard @JakeLeonardWPMD and Heartland Newsfeed @HLNF_Bulletin on Twitter.

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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network and a contributing writer for My Sports Vote, Ambush Sports and Midwest Sports Network. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dogs Sparky and Buster.

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