The proposed site for a $5.5 million wind turbine tower just west of town has been a center of controversy for local residents.
On a 5-to-3 vote last week, the city council agreed to negotiate a contract with Johnson Controls to build a 2.5 megawatt wind turbine just west of the city. The council also approved acceptance of a $1.385 million Illinois Clean Energy Grant for the tower’s installation.
Without the blades, the tower will rise more than 300 feet over the countryside. The blades will bring the full height to 425 feet.
City utility manager Ken Stock said the city evaluated seven or eight properties before picking the site – a field west of town off of Middle Road town. The property also gained notoriety last summer when crop circles were found there.
Homeowners who live near the proposed site, but outside city limits, including state Sen. Todd Sieben, are unhappy with the tower’s location.
At last week’s Geneseo City Council meeting, Jerald Deutsch, 13529 N. 2150 Ave., said the wind turbine would be in his backyard.
While saying he supports wind power, he called the turbine itself a ‘313 foot gorilla’ for himself and neighbors to look at. Mr. Deutsch’s backyard is right next to Sen. Sieben’s.
On Monday, Sen. Sieben said he also supports wind energy, but would like to see the city pursue other locations.
‘I was supportive of the grant the city got, but in all honesty, I didn’t realize it was going to be 425 feet tall,’ Sen. Sieben admitted. ‘We already have a cell tower on that same farm.
‘This is considerably larger.’
Sen. Sieben said he would like to see a ‘real good dialogue,’ with the city. He said he was upset with comments made by Ald. Ed Deener, 1st Ward.
The alderman told Mr. Deutsch last week that he didn’t see the wind generator as a ‘gorilla.’ Ald. Deener also said he didn’t think people living outside the city limits and receiving city services should complain.
‘That comment was not appreciated by many people who live on the edge of Geneseo,’ Sen. Sieben said. ‘I certainly didn’t appreciate it.
‘I would encourage the city to explore all possibilities on siting the tower. Let’s step back and consider the most appropriate site for a tower of this size.
‘There’s lots of coffee shop talk about this and why the city isn’t putting this on its own property.’
As an example, Sen. Sieben said the tower could be located in the Richmond Hill park, one of the sites considered and rejected by city officials.
Mr. Stock said although the city is looking at a lease agreement with the property’s owner, Jim Stahl, the city has not set anything in stone yet.
‘We’re not tied to a lease agreement or a land purchase,’ Mr. Stock said. ‘The location is still very much open for discussion.’
On Monday, Mr. Stahl said he didn’t want to comment on the possible lease agreement, saying it would be up to the city to work it out.
Ald. Kevin Peterson, 4th Ward, said there will be opposition to any site the city chooses.
‘I’m not trying to be negative, but those folks (Sen. Sieben and Mr. Deutsch) aren’t even in the city limits,’ Ald. Peterson said. ‘In my opinion, there’s a bit of beauty to it.
‘Once you get something like that up and operating and functioning, it will become part of the landscape. The positives are going to far outweigh the negatives for Geneseo. Our goal is to supply reasonably priced and reliable power.’
Mr. Stock said the city has looked at other sites and found them to be either too expensive to get power back across to its system or possibly against state laws. The Richmond Hill property mentioned by Sen. Sieben would be a difficult fit, Mr. Stock said, because under city zoning laws the turbine can’t be within 1,000 feet of a residential area.
Mr. Stock said he is still looking into what the Illinois Department of Transportation’s rules are regarding wind turbines.
By Stephen Elliott
18 June 2007
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