WIND ENERGY GROUP WANTS FURTHER SETBACK DISTANCE IN ADAMS COUNTY
October 11, 2011
ADAMS COUNTY, Ill. (WGEM) -- A group working to build a wind farm in Adams County could soon be hitting a road block.
Global Winds Harvest is moving forward on their plans to build a farm in eastern Adams County, but one group is asking the Adams County Board to make some changes to the current wind ordinance first.
The board already created an industrial wind ordinance a year ago, but since then the Advocates For Responsible Energy Development (ARED), has been reviewing wind farms in other areas and talking with residents living near them.
"We're gradually learning more and more about the ins and outs of industrial wind complexes and all we're asking the Adams County Board to do is re-look at it and re-evaluate it based on more and current information," John Gebhardt, ARED spokesperson, said.
ARED wants the setback distance for a wind turbine to be changed from one-quarter mile from a home to one half-mile.
"We're discovering that they create noise, they make it hard for people to live next to them," Gebhardt said. "So why not be responsible and set that distance further away now than have some Adams County residents have to suffer with problems we already know that other people have got."
ARED is also asking the Board to include a property value guarantee in the ordinance. Gebhardt says wind turbines can lower property value up to 25-percent.
The following is the proposal from ARED:
In response to the recent announcement by Global Winds Harvest that they are moving forward with their plans to build a wind farm in East Adams County, the Advocates for Responsible Energy Development (ARED) respectfully ask the Adams County Board to review and modify certain aspects of the Adams County Wind Ordinance before a permit is submitted and it is too late to make changes needed to protect the public's interests.
Our suggestions and reasoning follow:
1. Increase the setback distance to 1/2 mile from non-participant's property line. Currently the setback distance in Adams County is 1320 feet (one-quarter mile), which is the distance that Acciona representatives said, in their presentation at the Adams County hearing, that "they could live with." That company has already pulled out of the project, but Adams County residents are the ones who will have to live for the next 40-50 years with this setback distance in the ordinance once you approve a permit under those terms.
Several months ago, 1320 feet was one of the longer setbacks in Illinois. However, due to negative experiences in other parts of the state and nation, setback distances have been steadily increasing. For example, just across Adams' County's eastern border, Brown County recently voted in a setback distance of 2000 feet to better protect their residents. Two Illinois counties with 1500 foot setbacks are now considering lengthening theirs now that they already have experienced wind farms there. In North Carolina, their state Health official, after engaging in a detailed study of the most recent health data, has begun to push for a statewide 4900 foot (1500 meter) residential setback. Most European countries, after having several years of experience living with wind energy, have increased their setbacks to a mile or more.
The current setback of 1320 feet simply will not be adequate to protect Adams County residents. To leave it unchanged is to submit Adams County residents to an experiment that has already been conducted in many other places with negative consequences.
2. Give all incorporated towns in Adams County a setback of 1.5 miles from their border. Even though there is an Illinois statute that allows each town to do this for themselves, this change in the Adams County ordinance would set the "default" at protection for towns instead of forcing towns to enact legislation to get it. Once it is included in the County Ordinance, if a town board chooses to make exceptions, it is still free to do that. However, they will be acting with full knowledge instead of being caught by surprise as Camp Point, Clayton, and Golden were in the most recently proposed development.
Enacting this protection individually can be a lengthy and costly legal process, particularly for small towns. Giving this control to each small town council by "default" allows them to make changes intentionally instead of having massive changes put on them unknowingly, and likely, unwillingly, by a secretive company who has not consulted with them. If the company wants to place turbines up close to their town, then the town council will be invited to the bargaining table and become a meaningful part of the process for the good of their community.
3. Require an applying wind company to offer all residential property owners within 2 miles of a turbine a property value guarantee. A Property Value Guarantee (PVG) is a reasonable tool that is already being used in other areas of Illinois to remove the risk of catastrophic financial loss from non-participants, and place the risk where it is appropriate--on the company who proposes to surround residential homes with an industrial development. Many wind representatives argue that there is no loss in property value by living near a wind turbine, and if that debated theory is correct, then there is no risk to them in offering a fairly-crafted property value guarantee (such as the one already submitted to Adams County by Mike McCann, a nationally-known specialist in the area of the impacts of industrial developments on nearby residential property). To fail to include this provision means that the company, and by extension, the County Board, is forcing Adams County residents to bet our homes that the wind company's theory about property values is true. That is not a fair or just burden to place on any citizen.
For the company, if their theory is true, and any home they are forced to purchase is still worth what it was worth before, then the company will buy it at fair market value and be able to resell it, perhaps for a profit. But if property values indeed decline near wind turbines, or even become unmarketable, then this provision will protect Adams County non-participants from losing their home without any reasonable recourse.
4. For grievances that cannot be worked out between a citizen and the company, make the arbitration process binding for the wind company. We are concerned that the grievance process outlined in the Adams County Wind Ordinance ends with arbitration that is non-binding on the company. It is not fair or reasonable to expect individuals who stand to lose their home and major investment to take on an international company in court to get justice; the Wind Ordinance should make the judgments of a fair and impartial arbitrator binding on the company, offering a level and affordable playing field for those residents who cannot afford to take an international company to court.
HEALTH BOARD CONDITIONALLY SUPPORTS TURBINE ARTICLE
By B Runyon,
SOURCE Falmouth Enterprise,
October 18, 2011
Falmouth Board of Health decided last night to recommend changing the operations of the town-owned wind turbines to ease negative health effects on neighbors when Falmouth Town Meeting will consider shutting down the turbines next month.
The board made the unanimous decision last night to support the spirit of the petitioners article, but not the exact wording. Article 9 asks Town Meeting to suspend operations of Wind 1 and Wind 2 until research can show that no harm is being done to nearby residents by the Falmouth turbines. Wind 1 is currently operational, but shuts down when wind speeds exceed 23 miles per hour. Wind 2 is completed, but not yet operational.
Board of health members said they could not support the exact wording of the article because it would be almost impossible to prove that no harm is being done. The board decided instead to endorse the intent of the article after nine neighbors implored the board to respond to their complaints. “A couple of us are pretty much toast,” said Neil P. Andersen of Blacksmith Shop Road, one of the closest abutters to the town turbine. “We recognize there’s a problem in the wording [of the Town Meeting article], but there’s a moratorium on wind turbines in this town that serves everybody except us. We’re just asking you to back us.”
Mr. Andersen’s comments turned the board’s focus away from the wording of the article, and instead to its intent. The comment came toward the end of an hour and a half of testimony from neighbors, and discussion by the board. “Is the sense of the board that turbine operations should be suspended or modiﬁed?” asked board member Stephen R. Rafferty. “Do we support that something needs to be done?” “Something has to be done.
Yeah, I’m there,” said board member George F. Heufelder. He said he might be able to support suspending the operation of the turbine, if the article was amended so that it could be turned on again. But board member Jared V. Goldstone said he would not support the suspension of the turbine operation, but he would support further modiﬁcation of its operations. As an example of a modiﬁcation, Dr. Goldstone said, “We could shut it off at night and let it crank during the day.” The neighbors in the audience voiced their opposition to that idea, and Dr. Goldstone responded. “It was just an example.”
Board member John B. Waterbury said he did not support suspending the turbine operation, but he did support further modiﬁcations that could include changing the operation of the turbines during certain wind speeds, times of day and wind directions. Chairman Gail Harkness said she might be able to support the suspension of the turbine if there was an end date to the suspension.
Even if Town Meeting approves the petitioners article, it may not actually change the operations of the turbines, said Todd A. Drummey of Blacksmith Shop Road, who wrote the text of the petitioners article. The turbine operations are under control of the board of selectmen, he told the board of health.
Two weeks ago, Falmouth Board of Selectmen had a discussion about the petitioners article, and selectmen said the board could shut the turbines down whenever it wanted. But selectmen decided to hold its recommendation until Town Meeting, until further information is available about the costs of making changes to the wind turbines.
At the beginning of the discussion last night, one of the petitioners, Barry A. Funfar of Ridgeview Drive, West Falmouth, asked the board to declare that the turbines have created a health emergency in Falmouth. Mr. Funfar said that he and others who live in the area have experienced depression and suicidal tendencies as a result of the turbines.
Board members declined to take that action, but Mr. Heufelder said it has been personally difﬁcult for him to respond to the turbine complaints, because many residents have symptoms, but the science supporting their claims is not deﬁnitive. “Is there harm being done and we’re not doing anything about it?” asked Mr. Heufelder, who is also the director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and the Environment. He said, as a public health ofﬁcial, he is used to responding to complaints, but he is not sure how many complaints about wind turbines require a response. “What’s that number for wind? I don’t know. I don’t even know where to begin with wind turbines,” he said. There are people in the Falmouth community who have both psychological and physical symptoms from the turbines, he said. “There are symptoms. They are there,” Mr. Heufelder said. “The bottom line is that we’re the board of health and we have to be concerned about the health of the community.” Residents who live near the turbines did not have the symptoms before the turbines were built, but they do have symptoms now, he said.
Mr. Heufelder said he is not sure how many people have to be affected before the board of health responds. “I don’t know what that number is. I know that it’s not one, but don’t know it’s not 10,” he said. Dr. Waterbury said that as a scientist he needs to see credible peer-reviewed literature about the health effects of turbines. There is no peer-reviewed literature that shows direct health effects are caused by wind turbines, he said.
Board members directed their frustration at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, because it has not responded to a request for guidance about the sound measurements of wind turbines. Different sound measurements can yield different results, and the neighbors of the turbines say that the measurements used by the state are inadequate for measuring turbine sounds. “Wind turbine noise is so different than any other kind of noise,” Mr. Funfar said. The nearby highway does not drown out the noise, he said, and the noise and annoyance get worse over time. “We don’t get used to this sound. It makes us crazier and crazier,” Mr. Funfar said.
Dr. Goldstone said the health effects from wind turbines have to be studied before the causes can be known for sure. He likened it to ﬁguring out that cigarettes are a direct cause for cancer. It took hundreds of years of people smoking, he said, to determine that cancer is caused by smoking. After proof was presented in the 1950s, it still took another 50 years before smoking was banned in public places. With wind turbines, the health effects are still being determined, he said.