MONTICELLO – Piatt County board members have voted unanimously to oppose a proposed state law that would standardize some aspects of wind farm placement in Illinois.

Piatt County spent about two years updating its zoning code covering large wind projects, but if Senate Bill 1602 is approved would need to change the current setback distance to a more-stringent state law.

The resolution approved by the county board April 14 did not focus on those possible zoning changes, rather on a desire to keep local control of such issues.

“Senate Bill 1602 further undermines local control in that it substitutes state level legislative determination for the local control exercised by county zoning board commissions, zoning boards of appeals and county boards,” County Board Chairman Ray Spencer said in reading the resolution.

Counties also understand local needs and how to regulate them, claimed the resolution, which was drafted by the United Counties Council of Illinois and localized by Piatt County State’s Attorney Sarah Perry.

“Basically, my understanding is this would take our authority away on the rules and regulations we have in place for wind turbines,” Spencer said.

Board member Shannon Carroll said it would also negate the work of the zoning board of appeals – and the hours of testimony it took in amending the wind energy conversion ordinance.

“I think zoning and our board did a good job on the restrictions we have in place,” Carroll said. “I support what we’ve done in our county.”

If Senate Bill 1602 is approved and signed into law, counties would need to be in compliance within 120 days of its effective date. Piatt County would need to change its wind setback requirements of 1.3 times the tip height or 1,600 feet (whichever is greater) to 2.1 times tip height as measured from the outside wall of a residential structure.

The state setback would be 1.1 times the tip height for participating residences.

The Piatt County ordinance would apparently be in agreement with the state one in regards to shadow flicker (no more than 30 hours per year), and sound (must be in line with Illinois Pollution Control Board standards).

The county zoning board of appeals actually recommended a 15 hour per year limit on shadow flicker, but the county board changed it, partially due to the proposed state law.

It is unclear what the tip height limit would be under the state code. Piatt County’s is no higher than 625 feet, but SB1602 limits it to what would be considered a hazard to air navigation by the Federal Aviation Commission.

The state proposal also aims to expedite wind farm proceedings. As currently constructed, the bill would mandate public hearings on commercial applications begin no more than 45 days after an application is made, and that a decision be made with 30 days after the public hearing is concluded.

Finance committee to oversee COVID funds

Spencer proposed a new committee that would keep on top of, and account for the the estimated $3.1 million in Rescue America funds the county is expected to receive, but the board decided those tasks would instead fall under the purview of the existing county board finance committee instead.

“We already have 21 committees if I am correct, and this county board. Why do we need another one?” board member Todd Hendricks said.

Spencer pointed out that county sheriff David Hunt felt “a working committee would be more effective,” which would have been made up of himself, County Board Vice Chairman Shannon Carroll, Hunt, County Finance Manager Linda Leach, County Treasurer Debbie Marshall and County Transportation Engineer Eric Seibring.

Board member Gail Jones thought there should be wider representation on whatever committee was put in charge of COVID relief funds.

“We have other departments within the county that aren’t on this advisory board. I firmly believe it is for everybody in this county,” Jones said.

Carroll pointed out that representatives of other agencies could still bring input to the finance committee at its meetings.

“As long as every department gets a pice of the pie,” responded Jones.

Jerry Edwards, who along with Spencer were the only two voting in favor of forming a new committee, said he wanted the process in spending and accounting for COVID funds to be done “as efficiently as possible.”

The final vote was 4-2 against establishing the new committee. The Finance Committee is made up of all six county board members.

Highway projects

The board approved a resolution setting aside $1 million in Rebuild Illinois/motor fuel tax funds for continuation of safety shoulder work on County Highway 5 between Monticello and DeLand.

“Sometime next year is what we are looking at (to start),” Seibring said. He did not feel the project would cost $1 million, but said extra money is included in case of contingencies.

Safety shoulders help cars navigate curves, as well as ease them back on the road if they go off. Work on the Goose Creek curve near DeLand – at that time considered one of the most dangerious in the county – was completed two years ago.

The county board also:

–approved a low bid of $139,807 from Stark Excavating to replace a box culvert on a road in Bement Township to accommodate heavier truck traffic;

–approved low bids of $94,427 from Illiana Construction and $48,940 from Varsity Striping for motor fuel-tax funded road work to be done on county roads this year;

–approved low bid of $725,839 from Emulsicoat and $232,063 from Illiana Construction for township motor fuel tax-funded work; and

–approved low bids of $3,464 from Emulsicoat and $8,190 from Illiana Construction for work to be done in Willow Branch Township on a road known as the “Cisco Bypass.”

In other action, the county board:

–approved a variance for Marilyn A. Jean to construct a home and machine shed on two acres of land located near Ivesdale.

–approved a variance for Sheila Roth to construct a shed/house combo on five acres of land near Mansfield.

Both variances were needed for residences to be placed on less than 20 acre parcels.

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