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El Paso City Council tables wind farm proposal

EL PASO – The City Council said Wednesday night it needs more time to think about a 40-turbine wind farm proposed to be built just west of the city.

The wind farm, proposed by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, is planned to include 40 turbines on the west side of Interstate 39 and extending one mile north and three miles south of U.S. Route 24.

Twelve of the 40 turbines would be in El Paso corporate limits, land the council sees as having high potential for economic development.

Navitas Energy project developer Wanda Davies met with the council Wednesday night to discuss members’ concerns regarding the wind farm plans. They have been on record opposing the project and provided Davies with a detailed resolution outlining their concerns.

“What I’m hoping is that we can find some compromise that meets your concerns and meets our needs,” Davies said.

The Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals was to meet last week to hold public hearings on the wind farm before voting whether to grant Navitas a special-use zoning permit on property zoned for agriculture. At the City Council’s request, the board postponed the hearings until July 25.

Mayor Herb Arbuckle and other members of the council expressed concern that land taken up by wind turbines could have detrimental effects on economic growth and development, property values because of obstructed views, noise or light pollution and possible electronic and radio interference that could affect emergency radio signals.

“We’ve got to look 20 to 30 years down the road when we consider this,” Arbuckle said.

Council member Dick Jones said looking down the road, he can see the turbines harming residential property development west of town.

“If you polled 100 people on Main Street and asked if they’d build a house underneath one, I’d wager 93 of them would say they wouldn’t,” Jones said.

Davies, however, said more than 98 percent of land around the turbines will still be available for development. She said in all the studies she has seen, wind farms have not significantly affected residential property values one way or the other.

Davies said the wind farm likely would bring in $400,000 to $500,000 in tax revenue to local schools. However, legislation about how to assess wind farms for property taxes has not been passed in Springfield, making it difficult to determine exact numbers.

Davies offered to negotiate with the council but made it clear that if members still oppose all 12 turbines in El Paso, Navitas will forge ahead without their approval.

“We’ll set up a time and discuss this,” Arbuckle said. “We’ll let it soak in first.”

By Fitzgerald M. Doubet

Peoria Journal Star

31 May 2007