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Wind farm zoning plan gets through public hearing  

Concerns about lost tax revenue raised by some Stark County residents

A proposal to annex a 112-tower wind farm project in Stark and Marshall counties into an enterprise zone met with no opposition Wednesday at a public hearing in Lacon, although some concerns about lost tax revenue surfaced at a hearing in Toulon.

A developer, however, said lost taxes won’t be an issue.

California-based wind energy company Orion Energy LLC is proposing the wind farm in the Camp Grove area near the Marshall-Stark County line. The company wants the project included in the Marshall County Enterprise Zone.

If the project is included in the zone, it would receive exemption from sales taxes on materials bought in Illinois for the construction of the towers.

But some Stark County residents are concerned about losing that revenue.

“We’re needing all the revenue we can get,” former Stark County Board member and Toulon resident Russ Van Dran during a public hearing at the Stark County Courthouse. “I hate to see us giving up any source of income.”

But Orion Vice President Scott Healy said the county would not lose much money because the construction materials would be purchased in other parts of the state.

“The vast majority of sales tax dollars will not be going to Stark County anyway,” Healy said.

Stark County Board member Tom Howes said the project will greatly benefit both counties because of the property taxes it will generate. If the project is included in the enterprise zone, it will not be exempt from paying property taxes.

“I can’t see that we’re going to lose any large amount in sales taxes, but we’re going to gain a tremendous amount in property taxes,” Howes said.

The annexation would have to be approved by both county boards and the enterprise zone municipalities of Henry, Lacon, Sparland, Toluca and Wenona.

In Lacon, fewer than 15 people attended the hearing Wednesday night at the Marshall County Courthouse.

The Marshall County and Stark County boards will vote later this month on whether to expand the enterprise zone’s boundaries to include the majority of the project. The cities of Henry, Lacon, Toluca, Wenona and the village of Sparland must also approve the expansion.

Orion already has received special-use permits for this project and is working on building contracts.

The first phase, which Healy said is slated to begin early 2007, will include about 100 turbines, with a second phase bringing the project to about 200 megawatts.

The company hopes to have the farm operating by late 2007.

By Kevin Sampier and Erinn Deshinsky of the Journal Star
Kevin Sampier and Erinn Deshinsky can be reached at 686-3041 or state@pjstar.com.

pjstar.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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