DANVILLE, IL. (ECWd) –
Sept 9th, 2014. Vermilion County Board Meeting.
The September meeting began on time at 6 pm. Chairman Weinard started the meeting with 25 present, 2 absent. The 2 absent were McMahon and Barney.
Under audience comments this week Vermilion County resident Arthur Cronkite is the first to speak before the board. He declares that it is his duty to hold his government accountable. Last month a board member asked what he should do in response to pleas for help from the industrial wind turbines. Cronkite answers – do your job! He suggests that the board look out for all of the county residents, not just the wealthy land owners, politically connected or corporate interests that shovel money to a few. Think outside the box, be creative. Be a county that leads, not a follower. Go beyond the do-nothing “go-along to get-along” historical ways of the board. Cronkite asks for an open dialogue with the public on the turbine devastation that is going on in the county. Hold accountable those that are practicing imminent domain without fair compensation while generating health problems and financial woes for fellow citizens. Quit shooting the messenger and do your job and protect the interest of all as if it were your own.
Next speaker is Dave Miles who lives in the middle of the Invenergy complex in Pilot Township. Mr. Miles thanks the board for putting a resolution on tonight’s agenda to look into revising the county wind ordinance. He also tells the board that in 2009 he had is house appraised for $90,000. Last month, a new appraisal came in at $78,000. This after adding $11,000 in new windows and re-modeling amounting to a 21% loss in value! The appraiser told him that the loss was due in part to the close proximity to the Invenergy industrial wind turbines approved by the county board. A neighbor ¾ mile from Mr. Miles told him that when they tried to refinance their value had dropped by $30,000 or 23% since the wind turbines were built. Mr. Miles asks that the county look into wind ordinance changes including setbacks from property lines, not the foundation of family homes and that the county should set their own noise limits and standards. He states that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. He hopes that the county will do the right thing and vote to approve the resolution to look into the county wind ordinance.
The next speaker is Frankie Wright. Mr. Wright is a candidate for county board district 6. Mr. Wright recently made a choice to sell his home that he bought for his retirement. He could not live with the lights from the Invenergy wind complex in his back yard at night. He had spent over $35,000 to put in a pool and deck in the back yard. But he was unable to enjoy his property because of headaches due to the lights from the wind turbines. Mr. Wright took a $70,000 dollar loss when selling his property due to the closeness of the industrial wind turbines. Mr. Wright pleads with the board to vote to review the wind turbine ordinance by passing tonight’s resolution. He states that he was fortunate to be able to get something out of his home and move, but not all wind victims are able to afford that choice. He ask that the board err on the side of the children that have to live with the effects of the wind turbines and vote to approve the resolution.
The next speaker is Ted Hartke from Pilot Township in Vermilion County. Mr. Hartke tells the board that the first time he came forward to speak of the noise from the turbines was the April 2013 meeting in Potomac. Mr. Hartke also lets the board know that contrary to resolution 9D-1, the study group did not say that there were no changes possible to the wind ordinance without zoning. He points out that the Potomac wind panel felt that there were some merits to establishing noise reduction regulations regarding wind turbines. They recommended that the county board research noise pollution regulations and monitor changes. Mr. Hartke passes out a letter from acoustician Steve Ambrose that details Illinois Pollution Control noise limits that were made for urban areas and states that they are not suitable for industrial wind turbines in the rural community. Mr. Hartke states that the county powers shall not be exercised as to deprive owners from existing property to the use of property from which is it lawfully devoted. Mr. Hartke and others have been deprived of the use of their homes by Invenergy. The wind company is using the county wind ordinance as their shield. The county wind ordinance, as it currently exists, does not protect vulnerable children in rural areas. Mr. Hartke asks, now that we know that the wind ordinance does not protect rural families from turbine noise, there must be adjustments to correct it to keep our county from being hurt any further. He asks that the board allow the ordinance to be changed. Mr. Hartke offers to be available to assist the board.
The next speaker is Lynn McLinden from Danville. Mr. McLinden would like to add his voice to others and urge the county board to vote for the resolution to look into a review of the county wind ordinance. He states that the case is compelling and urgent to protect future victims of the industrial wind turbines. Mr. McLinden asks that no board members that have a vested interest in wind turbines be allowed to serve on the committee (meaning District 2 board member Mike Marron whose family receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Chicago Company Invenergy). He also asks for the reasonable protections from county issues such as wind turbines and landfills that zoning might provide.
The next public speaker is Doug Toole from Westville. He represent Keep Vermilion County Beautiful which promotes environmental education, recycling and the buying of recycled products, reduction of litter and tree planting in the county. Since 2006, the project has used fund raisers for community cleanup programs. They have approved 149 grants for 25 communities totally $73,000. The current fund raiser is a raffle for a 2014 Honda Civic or $20,000 in cash.
The next speaker is Darrell Cambron from rural Rankin and he asks that the board support tonight’s resolution to review the county wind ordinance. He believes that it is the right and fair thing to do for all of the county residents.
Kim Cambron from rural Rankin is the next speaker. She supports the resolution for the wind ordinance review and states that it’s not about not having wind turbines in the county, but making it fair for all residents in the county. Kim is hopeful that the board will do the right thing and vote for the wind resolution.
John Kraft from Edgar County speaks next. He states that he knows of no reason why the board should not vote for the resolution to review the wind ordinance. He asks that the board approve the resolution – that is all that anyone at this time is asking.
Steve Fourez is the next speaker. He states that he is representing the Vermilion County Farm bureau. He is concerned about protecting property rights and the resolution to investigate zoning that is also on tonight’s agenda. He is in favor of protecting his right to do whatever he wants on his private property. If the board is interested in dictating how he may or may not use his private property, then he has a problem with it. At some point protecting property rights equates to infringing on property rights. You can’t have it both ways. Mr. Fourez makes a good point that has been brought up many times by the wind victims. The county can’t protect the rights of the land owners to build industrial wind turbines and at the same time use part of the land of a non-participating neighbor as part of the safety setback zone of the wind turbine. The county is illegally taking away the rights of the non-participating land owner to use his land as he sees fit. Mr. Fourez gives a short economic lesson. He states that there is such a thing as opportunity cost – the loss of revenue from not doing something. If we have zoning, is the community going to compensate the land owner from the lost revenue from being precluded from some use of that property? In a way, Mr. Fourez again makes a good point that was brought up by the wind victims. They are seeing property losses due to the inadequate county wind ordinance. We are already seeing real estate agents discounting properties near wind turbines. Real estate appraisers are dropping values on homes in or near wind turbine complexes. Is the county going to compensate these land owners? Mr. Fourez asks is we are willing to pay higher taxes to the local taxing district, schools, counties and townships for the loss of increased tax base and the resulting loss of revenue. My guess is that if you ask Frankie Wright who took a $70,000 loss on the value of his home or Ted Hartke who cannot sell his house for enough money to replace it with a similar one elsewhere or Dave Miles who took a 23% decrease in property value and the many, many other Vermilion County residents that are forced to live with the health problems and financial loss of living near industrial wind turbines – the answer to that question would be YES!
Executive & Legislation – the resolution for delinquent taxes passes. The adoption of the Mitigation Plan is questioned by board member Miller who ask how can he be asked to vote on the plan when he has never seen it. The chairman advises that the plan was made by FEMA and other agencies. The Plan passes with A.J. Wright and Miller abstaining. The resolution for county legal holidays passes. The resolution to revisit the county wind ordinance passes, 14 yes, 11 no and 2 absent. The details of the discussion and vote on this resolution are described in another article on the ECW web site. The resolution on zoning fails, 20 no, 4 yes and 3 absent. See the article on this web site for just one example of the consequences of not having zoning in Vermilion County. The last item, an ordinance to establish a CASA fee passes.
Finance & Personnel – an ordinance establishing the number of Deputy Sheriffs and correction officers and a highway ordinance amending the combined annual budget both pass. The ordinance – Combined Annual Budget and Appropriation for Vermilion county fiscal year 2014-2015 and the 2014-2015 Annual Tax levy both pass. There was one error noticed in the budget and a correction page was handed out to the board members prior to the vote. Note: The ordinance for the budget and tax levy are a vote to display them in the County Clerk’s office.
Transportation – resolutions for Elwood Township Section culverts and resolutions for new equipment (Loader from Birkey’s and a new back hoe from Martin equipment) – both pass. The county Highway Winter Operations Policy passes – this includes the new policy on road salt to the shortage this year. The policy will be released to the press following the approval vote.
No Executive session was needed.
Chairman’s comments – the chairman noted that there were 3 people from Vermilion County listed on the 40 under 40 designation. They were Mike Marron, Jacqueline Lacey & Tricia Keith. The courthouse will be 100 years old this year and there will be a celebration on November 22nd. Representative John Shimkus will attend.
Board member comments – None
The meeting was recessed until October 14th at 6PM at the Danville Courthouse annex.