The White Oaks Wind Energy project took one more step toward completion after the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals voted Thursday night to recommend that the Woodford County Board approve the $200 million project.
The public hearing, a continuation of a four-hour-long Wednesday night meeting, was the last opportunity for the public to submit any evidence for the County Board to consider before reaching its decision.
Huddled in the old gymnasium of Congerville Elementary School, several residents voiced their concerns or enthusiasm on the proposed wind farm, which would straddle the McLean-Woodford county line.
Many, like Michael Linnemann of Carlock, expressed their distaste for the project, saying a wind farm would harm bird populations, lower property values, mangle farmland and spoil the rustic beauty of the region.
Linnemann said the venture would not only disrupt the rural community’s way of life but would also negatively impact the surrounding natural environment.
“I don’t see any benefits of this project coming here,” he said, addressing the zoning board. “You’re supposed to work for us and not change our way of life.”
The White Oak Wind Energy project, being developed by the Chicago-based Invenergy Wind LLC, aims to place 100 wind turbine towers over 12,000 acres of farmland spilling over into both counties.
The 262-foot turbine towers with 126-foot blades would be built at least 750 feet from any occupied residences. To date, Invenergy has found and secured locations for all 100 turbines, but is still awaiting county and state approval.
Amy Wuethrich of Carlock echoed Linnemann’s sentiments, saying said she feels Invenergy was less than forthcoming in its dealings with landowners.
“The Mackinaw Rivershed is a diamond in the rough,” she told the Invenergy representative. “I’m just hoping you guys are going to be accountable to the land and are going to be stewards to the land.”
Others said the project would help, not hurt, the rural area since the large turbines would keep urban sprawl and other unwanted development at bay. Prohibiting homes within a 750-foot radius could greatly slow creeping expansion from Bloomington-Normal, Carlock resident Julie Elzanati said.
“I support that kind of prevention in urban sprawl,” she said. “I understand the arguments (against the project) … but I also see a vision beyond the short term’s aesthetic changes.”
Joel Link, director of business development for Invenergy, said the company was very pleased with the decision and believed in the success.
“We wouldn’t go this far along if we didn’t feel we’d be successful,” Link said after the meeting.
The Woodford County Board will vote on the issue during its December meeting.
Frank Radosevich II can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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