A 70-turbine wind farm in the center of Henry County and plans for an expanded 20-client New Life Covenant drug rehabilitation facility operated by a Chicago church received the favorable response they sought Tuesday night from the Henry County Zoning Board of Appeals.
Peter Pawlowski of Competitive Power Ventures said CPV’s Spring Creek wind farm is wholly owned by CPV Wind Ventures, but the 70-turbine Midland wind farm is a separate entity partly owned by General Electric which won’t necessarily sell its energy to the same party as Spring Creek.
Brian Magerkurth, who lives at the Spring Creek site, said he had only recently found out about the wind farms, and if CPV is willing, as Pawlowski indicated, to mitigate effects such as aesthetics, by siting a turbine “a hill away” from someone’s house, he felt the county should do a mailing to let residents know.
County zoning officer Bill Philhower said he would consider a mailing, but he noted the county has done 10 times more notifications on the wind farms than for other applications.
“We haven’t done that in the past,” he said, adding he doubted they would do so now.
“We’ve never built 205 skyscrapers in the county either,” said Magerkurth.
Pawlowski said the firm assumes people want to minimize any shadow or flicker effect, and beyond that relies on “those who have very specific concerns to come to us and we can mitigate at a reasonable level.”
The firm’s environmental consultant Clint Harkness of TRC Environmental said the project is also awaiting wildlife, biology and cultural resources permits from the state, and there is plenty of time for neighbors with siting concerns to work with them.
Philhower brought up a medical report critical of wind turbines whose claims included the shadows from blades prompting epileptic seizures. Harkness basically discredited it.
“Her report covers a lot of ground. The only one I agree with is that if it’s noisy, it’ll interrupt your sleep and we’re saying it’s not going to be noisy,” he said.
He also said the United Kingdom has data showing the Epileptic Foundation has determined blade cycles of 2.5 hertz frequency or less will not trigger seizures and it would take 10 or higher to create conditions to exacerbate epilepsy, whereas this project has 1.1 “flickers” per second.
There may well be time for rural residents to adjust to the concept of “skyscrapers” amongst the corn.
Pawlowski told Monday’s planning committee meeting that right now they are telling farmers to plan on planting a crop next year on the selected sites.
There was no real opposition to the request to rezone the 15-acre farm south of Hillcrest Home from agricultural to residential to expand from its present five-client facility to 20. Alan Yager of Munson Township said he got information about the church and distributed it to township officials.
“There was no objection,” he said.
Mary Grant said she and her husband own adjacent property and although she said the New Life Covenant people are “wonderful neighbors,” they wondered what would happen to the property if the church left. Zoning officer Bill Phillhower explained the special use permit was specific to New Life Covenant and no one else could come in and operate it without going through the zoning process all over again.
“It can’t be expanded or changed, and they can’t build any more houses,” he said.
Both projects will go to the county board’s Dec. 12 meeting.
By Lisa Hammer of the Star Courier
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