The 4th of July may be over, but fireworks were still going off Thursday night in a Stephenson County courtroom, during a heated wind farm debate.
Stephenson County's zoning director says what's at stake is a simple matter of updating the county's ordinances to make them more efficient. But the dozens of residents gathered for Thursday night's zoning meeting say efficiency comes at the cost of their rights to speak out and petition government. The zoning board of appeals is considering whether to change wind turbines from industrial zoning to agricultural. That would mean anyone wanting to build a turbine would not have to apply for a special use permit and that would eliminate the public hearing process. The zoning director says the amended ordinance would require the wind turbine company to gather public input, but many fear the new system would be biased.
"They'll take the concerns of those people and then go back and readress them at another public meeting which will be held and put on by whoever the company is and then what comes out of that meeting will then be brought to my office," says Stephenson County Zoning Director Terry Groves.
"Would this multi-billion dollar corporation who stands to make that much money, genuinely listen to your concerns and want to make a reasonable solution with you? I don't think so," counters concerned resident Mike King.
King also asked the Z.B.A. to delay making a recommendation to the county board, which would then vote on the changes next Wednesday. King says residents have not seen a final version of the amendments and therefore have not had enough time to gather signatures opposing the changes.
The Stephenson County board already voted to bring in two wind turbines last November, neighbors then filed suit. No construction has begun as that suit is underway.
At the time of this publication the meeting was still going on.