The McLean County Board approved a special-use permit Tuesday for a $250 million wind farm despite efforts by a group of opponents to delay the vote.
The board voted 17-1 in favor of the 100-turbine White Oak Wind Energy Center. Plans call for the wind farm to be spread over about 12,000 acres in both McLean and Woodford counties.
“We are very disappointed,” said Bloomington attorney Melissa McGrath. “After 12 1/2 nights of meetings, the County Board takes 10 minutes (to make its decision).”
McGrath represents Information is Power, a not-for-profit group of affected residents. She said the group will pursue litigation, but she does not know when at this time.
On Friday, McGrath filed an emergency petition seeking to delay the vote based on accusations the Zoning Board of Appeals limited the wind farm opponents to five minutes each to present testimony, while proponents had no time limit. McGrath also claimed the Chicago-based company behind the project, Invenergy, was allowed to present evidence based on hearsay while opponents could not.
Because of these restrictions, McGrath said her clients were unable to fully present their case.
Judge Charles Reynard ruled just 30 minutes before the County Board meeting Tuesday morning. He said the right to a court review did not exist at this point because a final administrative decision had not yet been made. He allowed the vote to continue as scheduled.
Reynard said based on McGrath’s claims, the objectors would likely have grounds to appeal if the County Board did OK the wind farm permit.
Board member Tari Renner cast the only dissenting vote. Before the vote, he urged fellow board members to consider the possible effect of property values near the wind turbines.
“I don’t see by the evidence presented how we can say ‘no one will be harmed,’ ” he said.
Renner claimed the record from the Zoning Board of Appeals hearings states that national studies have shown property values have not been affected by the construction of wind farms. He added most wind farms are placed in very lightly populated areas unlike the village of Carlock.
Renner suggested Invenergy offer residents a home protection plan, a kind of insurance policy, to ease concerns.
Joel Link of Invenergy said he was “very pleased” with the board’s decision.
He’s also not concerned about McGrath’s threat of appealing the board’s decision.
“We have good community support,” said Link, adding Invenergy is fully prepared to follow through on the wind farm.
Invenergy’s next step is to finish some environmental work. Link said construction could begin this summer.
“It’s a great project for the community,” he said.
McGrath, however, feels differently.
“This will be a major issue in McLean County for years to come,” she said.
The issue now moves to Woodford County, which has scheduled a public hearing for 6 p.m. April 25 at the Congerville Elementary School.
By Holly Richrath
Of The Journal Star
21 March 2007
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