Opponents and supporters of a proposed 42-tower El Paso wind farm presented closing arguments to the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals Plans Wednesday evening.
If approved, the towers would be built on the west side of El Paso. The board votes at 6 p.m. Aug. 15 at El Paso’s Grace Fellowship Church.
Concern for school funding convinced landowner Larry Roth, a former Eureka elementary principal, to support the project.
“The El Paso-Gridley school system has the highest tax rates in the county,” said Roth. “That’s detrimental to the schools, businesses, everyone. This is an excellent opportunity to fund the schools without raising taxes. We need to consider the kids. That’s why I support this.”
Spokeswoman Wanda Davies said Minnesota-based Navitas Energy would provide $600,000 to taxing bodies in lieu of property taxes. The amount could increase depending on how the state sets wind farm taxing policy. Navitas also would offer $10,000 to fire districts for training and equipment purchases.
Not everyone agrees with the proposal.
“If we’re going to turn good, rich farmland into roads, we might as well make subdivisions for young couples to move in, but who wants to live near a wind farm?” said Duane Kingdon. “We won’t have to worry about supporting the schools because there won’t be any kids to use it.”
Kingdon’s brother Don said the turbines’ flashing lights, used to warn aircraft, may have an impact far beyond El Paso.
“If this were a salvage yard, you would be required to put a fence around it so no one could see the mess, but you can’t do that with these towers because they are over 400 feet high and flash,” said Kingdon. “I can see the lights from the Ellsworth towers and they are over 20 miles away.”
The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission has approved the project pending on several conditions from the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. The project also will need road agreements from the Palestine, El Paso and Greene townships.
Kathleen Ferruzza of rural El Paso lives in the middle of the proposed development. “I resent the fact that I am impacted by the towers but I have no say in it,” said Ferruzza. “The deal is made between Navitas and the landowners and the landowners aren’t living among the towers so they are affected by them.”
Roy Hodel of rural Gridley owns farmland in El Paso. “I tried to have developers come in 20 years ago to build a manufactured home area for retired people but the city wouldn’t listen to it,” said Hodel. “They said it would be low income and bring in too many kids for the schools. The city is careful about what it lets in but tells me what I can do with my own land.”
By Dave Tompkins
9 August 2007
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