Work continues on establishing two wind farms in Stephenson County, as officials move closer to completing a draft of the Homeowner Protection Plan, which establishes terms for compensating homeowners should their property values decline due to the wind towers.
Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said a draft version of the homeowner plan will likely be presented to the County Planning and Development Committee for consideration Dec. 27.
It is unclear whether the committee will approve the document at that time, or send it back for further revisions, Groves said.
As part of formulating the plan, county officials this week will meet with several concerned landowners to obtain their input on the document, Groves said. The wind-farm companies will also have input in the plan’s creation. The plan will establish homeowner-related guidelines that the wind-farm companies must follow before they can obtain building permits.
“We’re just making sure everyone has a right to voice their opinion,” Groves said. “We’re trying to be fair and up front about everything.”
The main purpose of the plan is to set up specific terms by which the wind-farm companies would have to compensate homeowners who experience a loss in property value due to the wind towers. The loss of property value would only be compensated if the homeowner were to sell their home, officials say. The document will also include guidelines related to setbacks, and other aspects of the project, officials say.
County Special Assistant State’s Attorney Frank Cook said a key part of creating a viable plan will be structuring it in a way that addresses the concerns of the County Board and also incorporates the suggestions of homeowners. However, county officials must be careful that the plan itself does not influence property values, Cook said.
“We want to end up with a market-neutral agreement,” Cook said.
Last month, the County Board approved the special-use zoning applications that will allow two companies to establish wind farms in this area. The projects include EcoGrove Wind LLC, a wind farm proposed for a site northwest of Lena by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group, and Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, a farm proposed for the Dakota area by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis.
The companies will have to meet a number of requirements before building permits will be allowed, including the Homeowner Protection Plan and numerous others.
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, he said.
Shawn Gaffney, president of EcoEnergy, said that 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.
By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
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