A wind-farm developer is scouting for new land as negotiations with three Woodford County townships seemingly failed.
Unable to agree on accident liability issues, Greene, Panola and Clayton townships rejected a proposal Saturday from Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy, which wants to build a 79-turbine, $260 million wind farm near Benson.
The townships did approve a contract on Saturday but not the exact contract Navitas drafted, and that was the company’s final proposal, said project developer Wanda Davies.
“We have compromised and given them what they wanted on so many issues,” she said. “We don’t build the project unless we have an agreement with the townships.”
The news disheartened Woodford County officials and residents, said county administrator Greg Jackson. While the county board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on Navitas’ permits, it cannot grant them without consent from the townships, he said.
“Things are not looking good,” Jackson said. “The biggest losers of this will be the school districts.”
The wind farm would have brought $1.1 million in new property tax revenue and $450,000 in revenue to landowners with lease agreements, he said.
On Saturday, the townships rewrote a contractual agreement drafted by Navitas. The rewritten terms, however, did not meet the developer’s previous demands.
Most notably, the rewritten proposal limited the townships’ liability for any vehicle accidents or property damages caused by the development, said Ottawa attorney Sheryl Kuzma, who represents the townships.
To transport building materials, for example, Navitas will have to reconfigure township roads. If those repairs cause an accident, the townships want Navitas to take responsibility.
“This is a Navitas project and we want Navitas to be responsible for it,” Kuzma said.
Navitas, however, refuses to accept responsibility for accidents caused by road reconfigurations made at the suggestion of township officials, Davies said.
While she wouldn’t identify the locations for proprietary reasons, Davies said the company is looking at other Illinois communities to develop the wind farm.
In addition, Navitas has plans to build in Coles and Iroquois counties, she said.
By Scott Miller
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