Friday, June 04, 2010
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2 county ordinance modifications to be proposed:

Zoning violation penalty adds bite

Building permit fee structure supports private wind turbine development

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[June 04, 2010]  On Wednesday evening the Logan County Board's Planning and Zoning Committee discussed several and varied subjects of property laws, fees and fines.

A remodel of an old ordinance may soon be getting some violators' attention. Logan County zoning officer Will D'Andrea explained a proposed amendment that adds a fine, and at $250 per day it is enough to add bite for those tough-to-get-their-attention cases.

D'Andrea said that 95 percent of the people he talks to are responsive when told that they are in violation of a zoning code. The fine is to provide a disincentive to those who typically don't comply.

In short, if a person is found guilty in court, they would have to pay $250 for each day a violation was not corrected after being informed of it.

Modified, Zoning Ordinance 14.3 would read as follows:

Any person, firm, or corporation who, after notification of violation and method of correction, continues to violate and/or refuse to obey any provision of this ordinance, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, and shall be fined two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00). Each day a violation exists or continues shall constitute a separate offense.

This measure was recommended to and accepted by the Logan County Regional Planning Commission 7-0 later in the evening. It thereby moved to the zoning appeals board, who met on Thursday evening. The appeals board also approved the modification. Next and finally it will go before the Logan County Board, with final approval expected at the June 15 adjourned session.

Wind has become a reality in electrical energy production for central Illinois in just the last few years. The newly emerging industry arrived on the Logan County horizon with large-scale commercial wind farms, but lately has evolved to include individual smaller turbines for private use.

And, it would seem that more of each are sure to come. D'Andrea said that he has had and is expecting more building permit requests for both commercial and private-use turbines.

Logan County was ready in advance with an ordinance that included building permit fees for commercial production turbines. However, the private-use turbines kind of sneaked up on everyone, and there was no building permit fee in place for those. D'Andrea noted that the rate of $20 per foot for the commercial towers was a bit excessive for individuals intending to offset their electrical costs with a small turbine at their home or business.

The county board agreed in workshop that a special rate needed to be put in place for private wind turbines, but that there needed to be more definition added than what was previously presented.

It was learned that power companies are willing to accept excess electricity produced by private turbines. Committee chairman David Hepler assigned committeeman Bill Martin to research how the power companies are handling the excess electricity generated by private wind turbines and to find out if the private owners were being paid for that electricity, which if that were so, would make it a commercial operation.

First off, Martin said that while the power company does accept excess electricity produced by the privately owned turbines, the company does not buy that electricity. Rather, the excess electricity is credited one-to-one to the customer's account.

The process has been defined by Illinois statute. The power companies use what is called "net metering." It is defined by production potential and divided as follows:

  • 0-10 kilowatts

  • 10.1-40 kilowatts

  • 40.1 kilowatts to 2 megawatts

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Additional information:

  • Under 2 megawatt production from a turbine that does not send all its electricity to the grid does not qualify for commercial.

  • Over 2 megawatt production potential allows a turbine to be considered commercial and get paid for that electricity.

  • An average hog farm uses 40 kilowatts.

  • An average factory uses 1.5 megawatts.

In contrast, looking at commercial wind energy production, Rail Splitter Wind Farm turbines are 330-feet tall, 495 feet to the top of blade, and each turbine has a production potential of 1.5 megawatts.

Martin recommended that the county follow the same structure as the power company, which would make it consistent with the state statue. He suggested crafting the fee structure for building permits by using the net metering scale. The following recommendation would be made to the full board:

  • A $100 building permit would be needed for a wind turbine producing 0-10 kilowatts.

  • $250 for a wind turbine producing 10.1-40 kilowatts.

  • $20 per foot on turbines producing 40.1 kilowatts to 2 megawatts.

D'Andrea also apprised the committee that Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently released new flood plain maps. The release of the new information means that to be in compliance with the state ordinance, the county will need to rescind its current ordinance and accept the new recommendations. During the next six months it will be important to note where the maps differ and why, D'Andrea said.

On the issue or nuisance properties, Hepler said he felt it would be good to put this matter under the auspices of the Logan County Department of Public Health's environmental health officer.

"Don (Cavi) is trying in a firm, but very cooperative way, working with the state's attorney's office and the sheriff's department," Hepler said. Having one person as the primary contact and coordinator would help keep track of what is being done, "and we can stay on top of these things," he said.

Committee member Pat O'Neill asked about absentee landlord laws in unincorporated areas. He had a call concerning a residence with broken windows in Lawndale. D'Andrea said that in general, the county ordinances would cover structural things inside a building through the building code. Nuisance laws would cover such things as garbage and refrigerators outside.


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