Tazewell County residents taking on windmills

By Kevin Beese Staff Writer

Windmills surround Zumwalt’s farm in Mason County. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Zumwalt)

Jacob Zumwalt enjoys checking out the night sky at his Delavan farm and would rather not have windmills impeding that view.

“When I’m watching shooting stars, I don’t want to see blinking red lights. It’s distracting,” Zumwalt said. “Some people may not mind it, but to me, the windmills don’t look natural. It makes the area look industrial.”

Zumwalt, a sixth-generation farmer, is a leader in an area group looking to ensure that windmills and wind farms don’t negatively impact the landscape. His group, United Citizens of Tazewell County, wants to make sure residents understand just what is involved in granting easements for wind and solar projects.

“Now more than ever before, it is imperative that you protect yourselves!” members of United Citizens of Tazewell County state on their website. “The current state and county wind ordinances are woefully inadequate. Future state and county regulations are unknown and largely influenced by wind developers and Governor (JB) Pritzker’s climate plan.”

Zumwalt wants to ensure that he and other Tazewell residents don’t go through what he experienced in Mason County. In 2016, Zumwalt and his twin brother bought a farm in Mason. Zumwalt decided to move back to the area from Seattle and when he returned, he discovered his farm was going to be surrounded by five windmills.

“The process had been going on for two years. It had gone through zoning. The (Mason) County Board gave the wind farm what they wanted,” Zumwalt said. “They allowed one right in the corner by my property. What would happen if that fell on the roadway? The whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth.”

Zumwalt is concerned that if his Mason County farm ever has irrigation issues, the results could be disastrous because of the windmills.

“I am not sure we can get an airplane in now to do aerial spraying,” the corn farmer said. “It’s a bigger risk.”

Tazewell County is looking to make improvements to its Wind and Solar ordinances and has been seeking public input.

Jaclynn Workman, administrator of the Tazewell County Community Development Department, said resident input received so far will be taken to the county’s Land Use Committee on Sept. 12. Committee members will decide if any of the resident information provided should be a consideration in modifying either of the county ordinances.

The Wind and Solar ordinances were amended in May, following the passage of a state law establishing more state control over the issue.

Workman said if members of the Land Use Committee wish to further amend the county ordinances, a public hearing will be held Oct. 3. A final decision from the County Board would be made at its Oct. 25 meeting, she said.

Zumwalt said United Citizens of Tazewell County wants to make sure people are educated about the wind farm issue.

“We want to make sure people know what they are signing up for,” Zumwalt said. “In some cases, people are not just signing up granting easements for the windmill location. They are granting an easement for the whole farm. Who knows where that can lead?

“We are just trying to be vocal.”

Zumwalt said he has been going to county meetings about the issue for more than a year.

“All I want to do is farm,” he said.

Residents can find information about United Citizens of Tazewell County at www.uctcill.com.