The Woodford County Board voted 12-0 to approve a road repair agreement and special use permits for a $260 million wind farm, and might use eminent domain to force townships to follow suit.
Earlier this week, Navitas Energy officials said they will seek new land for a wind farm after an effort to reach road repair agreements with Greene, Clayton and Panola townships failed.
The special use permits for building the 79-turbine wind farm can’t be used unless access to the site is available through the townships. The county’s road agreement includes provisions for upgrading and repair of any roads damaged by heavy loads of construction materials and equipment, as well as a $3.9 million letter of credit to ensure repairs in the case Navitas defaults on the agreement.
However, the three townships are seeking provisions adding liability to the company for any damage to roads for two years after the construction phase as well as any vehicle accidents attributed to the road repairs or reconfiguration. The townships approved an agreement on Saturday, but Navitas officials said the agreement was unsatisfactory.
Christopher Moore, managing director of Navitas, attended the county board meeting Tuesday and signed the county road agreement immediately.
At the meeting, the board directed County Administrator Greg Jackson to review the potential for seeking an eminent domain ruling, or for performing a forced annexation of the township roads.
“Eminent domain is an economic development tool,” said Jackson. “We don’t know if we can do it, it is just something we will take a look at.”
Meanwhile, Navitas officials said the potential for moving the project to another location is looking more likely. “Each delay makes it tougher to get this project installed next year,” said Moore. “If we can’t get this thing locked down at some point, we have other developments in Illinois that will start looking more attractive than this one.”
According to Jackson, losing the project would cost local taxing bodies $1.1 million annually in tax revenue. The loss would also be sending a message to other potential developers, he said.
“This is the biggest economic development opportunity to come to Woodford County and if it doesn’t happen, we won’t be shutting a door,” said Jackson. “we’ll be slamming a door.”
By J.W. Shults
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