The fate of the the White Oak Wind Energy Center now is in the hands of the Woodford County Board.
The Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 after two days of testimony to recommend a special-use permit for the wind farm. However, the recommendation to the County Board did come with several conditions.
Chicago-based Invenergy Wind is seeking approval to build 100 turbines on scattered sites near the McLean-Woodford county line. Construction on the project, which would cost more than $200 million, is slated for spring 2007.
The zoning board expects the company to obtain approval from the Federal Aviation Administration and complete a historical and archaeological impact study. The company also will be required to issue a letter of credit for $59,000 per turbine to ensure the decommissioning of the wind farm.
Invenergy also will be required to administer a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) program, which ensures local taxing bodies will get at least $6,333 per turbine. The company actually estimates that revenue will be about $9,400 per turbine.
Road agreements with Kansas Township and Woodford County will have to be approved as well.
Residents divided on issue
On Thursday night, about 45 people attended the continuation of the hearing that ran late into Wednesday night. Residents addressing the board Thursday were evenly split for and against the proposed wind farm.
Wednesday night, only one resident spoke in favor of the development.
While some residents adjacent to the proposed turbine sites said the development could lower property values, Julie Elzanati of rural Carlock said the wind farm could prevent urban sprawl, protecting farmland and potentially increasing property values.
“I support wind energy, and I also support the development of this project in our area,” Elzanati said.
Lee Ruegsegger, whose farm is slated to host turbines, argued that wind farms would aid the economy and meet increased energy needs. Rejecting the development would intrude on his property rights, he said.
“I don’t feel it is right that people can come in “¦ and tell me whether I can have wind turbines or not,” Ruegsegger said.
Jeanie Morse of rural Carlock said the wind farm would affect her property adversely by interfering with birds, wildlife and the aesthetic view from her land. She argued for protection of the area, specifically asking that the zoning board require Invenergy to act on additional information provided by local bird enthusiasts when picking turbine sites.
“We do not want to see their comments just considered as a matter of formality,” Morse said. “The Mackinaw River watershed is a diamond in the rough.”
Amy Wuethrich lives on a farm along U.S. 150 that has been in her family for more than 100 years. She said she favors wind energy and was initially excited about the project, but now questions the honesty of company officials.
She said Invenergy officials misrepresented the development, including the movement of a 45-foot-wide crane from one location to the next over farmland.
Invenergy’s director of business development, Joel Link, said the soil compaction caused by the crane will only occur on participating farms, and property owners will be compensated.
According to Link, residents’ concerns about bird deaths, property values, noise and the view are commonly cited with wind farm developments.
Invenergy has planned to put 10 to 15 of its turbines in Woodford County.
The Woodford County Board is expected to review the matter at its Dec. 19 meeting.
The McLean County zoning hearing is set for Nov. 21 and 22 at Heartland Community College, 1500 W. Raab Road, Normal.
By J.W. Shults
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