A proposed Woodford County wind farm was recommended for a special-use permit Wednesday, but the sites for six of the planned towers will have to be moved away from the Interstate 39-U.S. 24 intersection.
After two weeks of hearings, the Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted Wednesday in favor of a special-use permit for Navitas Energy.
The Minnesota-based compnay wants to build a 42-turbine wind farm on 2,943 acres on the west side of El Paso. Construction is planned for 2009, but the project still needs various county, state and federal approvals.
The city of El Paso had wanted 12 tower sites moved half a mile away from the right-of-way at the intersection. City officials fear the turbines would limit commercial development in town.
“We had hoped all 12 would be moved instead of just six,” said El Paso Mayor Herb Arbuckle. “Now we’ll concentrate on the County Board.”
It’s not clear when the Woodford County Board will consider the proposal. Although the board will meet Sept. 19, County Administrator John Hamann said the board is waiting for the state to decide how wind farms will be taxed.
If the project receives approval from the County Board, Navitas also must comply with several conditions from the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission and the Illinois Historical Preservation Agency.
The zoning board also required Navitas to donate $10,000 to the El Paso and Secor fire protection districts based on the tower locations, agree to annual soil erosion inspection and contact the Woodford County Health Department if a well is needed.
The project also will need road agreements from the Palestine, El Paso and Greene townships, which are still pending.
“They have agreed to the road route we proposed, the security arrangements and the terms,” said Navitas spokeswoman Wanda Davies. “We’ve even agreed to three miles of road upgrades for $285,000, but they also want an additional $1.4 million for the project, which we haven’t agreed to.”
Davies said she is pleased that 36 turbine locations were approved and said Navitas will attend the zoning board’s September meeting with a proposal for new sites for the six remaining turbines.
“This shouldn’t delay the project,” said Davies. “Given that we have 36 turbines approved, we have enough to move forward while Ameren (the electric utility) completes wire upgrades that are necessary to the project.”
By Dave Tompkins
15 August 2007
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