A public hearing on a permit for a 262-foot high wind test tower in Grand Rapids Township is coming up this month.
The La Salle County Zoning Board of Appeals has received an application for a special use permit on property near the southwest corners of East 23rd and North 23rd roads in Grand Rapids Township near Marseilles.
Both property owners, William and Norma Dooley and Invenergy Wind North American L.L.C., are asking for a permit that would allow installation of a temporary test wind (meteorological) tower on property that is currently zoned agriculture.
In a Feb. 22 letter from La Salle County Director of Environmental Services Michael Harsted, residents in the surrounding area were informed that a public hearing on the issue would be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, at the La Salle County Governmental Complex in Ottawa. In his letter, he stated “this public hearing would be the only opportunity for public comments on this issue.”
According to information provided by Invenergy, the company wants to begin construction in early spring and have the tower operating by next winter. The tower would have a 1.5-megawatt turbine. The blade-swept area would extend an additional 135 feet over the hub, producing speeds of more than 180 mph.
While wind energy is seen as a way to solve the country’s energy crisis, there are residents in Grand Rapids who feel the development conflicts with the township’s comprehensive use plan. Adopted by the township Feb. 14, 2006, the plan encourages zoned agricultural land use and encourages other zoned property in adjacent areas.
The plan provides for the location of a “suitable agri-business in those areas of the township that can efficiently and economically service the surrounding agricultural uses.”
Grand Rapids contains about 36 square miles of unincorporated property with small portions in a one and a half mile area around Grand Ridge and Marseilles.
“We are an agricultural township,” Supervisor George Hess said. “Keep in mind that right now no one is asking for a change in our zoning. They are just asking for a special use within this area.”
Hess pointed out some advantages to a wind tower or farm: the potential increase in the township’s tax base and a personal income benefit for the landowner. Disadvantages could be a decrease in property values, the view a farm would present and noise.
“While it’s not a loud noise, it’s a constant hum that could be very hard to deal with,” Board member John Thomas said.
But it was Road Commissioner Steve Lehr who pointed out one of the biggest disadvantages to the township: road damage from the tower’s construction.
“The cranes used for these projects are huge,” he said. “You’re talking about a 100-ton crane and it’s a monster. The damage they do to roads is just unbelievable.”
Lehr told the board he would look at contracts in other areas that have wind towers to see how they handled the road damage issue.
Charles Durdan, a member of the township’s Plan Commission noted there is a “test tower in Brookfield that’s been there for two years. I believe there will be a wind farm in Brookfield. There will be wind farms built in this area if there’s no one to object.”
Former supervisor Doug Winn agreed.
“They already know what the wind data is. This is just a way for them to get their foot in the door.”
Another resident, Paul Salt, said while it’s difficult to object to a test tower, “it’s what comes with it that’s a concern.”
Resident Brian Dovin was among those who asked what the township board could do.
“My point is that this township is zoned agricultural,” he said. “We should do something before the hearing to let the county know there are objections to this tower.”
The board approved a motion to write letters to both the County Board and its Zoning Board, noting all of the township’s objections.
WANT TO BE INVOLVED?
What: Public hearing on application for a special use permit to construct a 262-foot high wind test tower in Grand Rapids Township
When: 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 27
Where: La Salle County Complex in Ottawa
By Kate Reynolds
15 March 2007
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