County updates wind, solar energy codes

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Updates to zoning codes for wind and solar energy conversion systems were approved by the Monroe County Board during its Jan. 19 meeting. 

The updates reflect current changes to best oversee safe and efficient growth of these green energy systems that are being increasingly implemented or proposed by individuals and business interests throughout the country. 

Changes to the wind energy code include increasing the setback required from nearby structures, forbidding shadow flicker on neighboring properties and public roadways, requiring developers to conduct seismic testing before and after construction of a site within 10 miles of known cave systems in karst areas and limiting the noise that can be emitted by turbines. 

For solar power, the board more specifically defined large and small solar projects and prohibited reflection angles from solar panels from being oriented in a way that glare would be on an adjacent road or property.

The Monroe County Fair Wind Coalition, which formed in 2019, had pushed for changes to the county’s solar energy ordinance.

The wind farm issue has  died down of late but was a hot topic in 2018 when local developer Joe Koppeis revealed plans for a proposed $200 million, 50-turbine wind farm near the bluffs south of Valmeyer. 

Koppeis also pointed out then that Illinois requires 25 percent of all energy come from renewable energy by 2025.

In other news from the Jan. 19 meeting, the Monroe County Highway Department and Road District 6 are moving ahead to reconstruct a 1,600-foot section of HH Road starting just west of the Waterloo city limits. 

This work will increase driver safety by realigning two substandard curves and rebuilding the section, including a new 18-inch rock foundation, five inches of new asphalt and two-foot-wide asphalt shoulders.  

Most of the estimated total cost of $652,000 has been received earlier via a federal grant of $559,800, with the other 10 percent to be shared between the county and road district.  

Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger said engineering work will begin in April, with actual construction slated for June and July, when the work section will be closed to traffic.

Monroe County Mapping and Platting Director Laura Henry received approval to enter into a contract with Kucera International, an aerial mapping firm from Willoughby, Ohio, to create new aerial photography mapping of the county. 

Current aerial photos are about six years old, Henry said, and it is time to update them. Work on the new aerial photos will start soon and they will have twice the resolution of existing ones, with the work being shot at a lower altitude.

The county is being assisted with costs by the cities of Waterloo and Columbia, which have agreed to contribute $5,000 each. The village of Valmeyer will contribute $750. The total project will cost $52,300. 

Commissioner Dennis Knobloch cautioned fellow board members that he has learned the state is predicting a Consumer Price Index increase of only 1.4 percent for the next fiscal year that begins on Dec. 1.  

The CPI increase this year is 2.3 percent. 

The importance of this number is that it is part of what is called the PTELL formula for determining property taxes and could have a negative impact on the county’s budget for 2022.

The following resolutions of appointment and reappointment were passed unanimously by commissioners:  Brendan Schumacher of Columbia to the Monroe Local Emergency Planning Committee, replacing Don Sutter; Jane Kolmer of Columbia to the Monroe County Regional Planning Commission, replacing Lisa Baczynski; James Hill of Fults to the ILLINOISouth Tourism and Nathan Brinkman of Waterloo to the Monroe County Regional Planning Commission. Finally, Ann Rudloff and Ron Mueller, both of Waterloo, were reappointed to the Monroe County Local Emergency Planning Committee.

The next meeting of the Monroe County Board is Monday, Feb. 1 at the courthouse.

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