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Wind farm projects face a long road  

Even though the Stephenson County Board on Thursday approved the special-use zoning applications that will allow two companies to establish wind farms in this area, there is still a significant amount of work to do before the wind towers are actually built, said Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county.

Thursday’s special meeting drew more than 100 spectators. The County Board voted 16-3 to approve the application for EcoGrove Wind LLC, a wind farm proposed for a site northwest of Lena by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group. The board also voted 13-6 to approve Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, a farm proposed for the Dakota area by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis.

Now that the zoning applications are approved, the next step will be for the county’s Planning and Development Committee to develop a Homeowner Protection Plan for the projects, Groves said. This plan will establish homeowner-related guidelines that the wind-farm companies will have to follow before they can obtain building permits, he said.

The companies will have to meet a number of requirements before permits will be allowed, including those related to homeowner protection, decommissioning of the project, Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, and other concerns, Groves said.

The Homeowner Protection Plan is one part of the overall wind-farm requirements. The preparation for this document will likely start at the Planning and Development Committee’s next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“No permitting will take place until all the conditions are met,” Groves said.

At the same time that planning begins, Navitas will also be submitting applications so that the FAA can review each proposed wind-tower site to ensure all safety guidelines are followed, officials say.

According to Kevin Lindquist, a senior project developer for Navitas, his company will need to begin preliminary construction work on the wind farm within a year. However, the wind towers themselves will likely not be operational for another 16 to 18 months from now, he said.

Shawn Gaffney, president of EcoEnergy, said the “ideal situation” would be for his company to start construction on its wind farm by the end of 2007. However, the time frame will depend on what sort of energy arrangement EcoEnergy can make with ComEd, Gaffney said.

Lindquist said he was pleased with the County Board’s approval. But he said his happiness has been tempered somewhat by the fact that some residents are unhappy with the proposed wind farms. Even so, Lindquist said he believes the public will realize that the wind farms are not disruptive once they are up and running.

“We think (the County Board) made the right decision, because we met the requirements of the ordinance,” Lindquist said.

Rick Porter, an attorney representing about 27 area landowners, said it’s possible for residents objecting to the projects to proceed with an appeal, but he is unsure whether his clients will be able to afford that option. Another attorney in Porter’s law firm, Tom Boswell, is representing about 40 landowners opposed to the projects. Boswell was unavailable for comment. Both attorneys work for Hinshaw & Culbertson in Rockford.

Porter said the County Board’s decision was difficult to understand given what he sees as major deficiencies in EcoEnergy’s application. He also said the process has been unfair because opponents were not allowed to speak directly to the County Board, but only to the county Zoning Board of Appeals.

“It’s unfortunate this decision has been made,” Porter said.

By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
Published: Friday, December 1, 2006

journalstandard.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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