Residents say Logan officials haven’t given them required notices
A local group has forced a halt to official discussion about the Railsplitter Wind Farm project during future Logan County Board and committee meetings.
The proposed wind farm stretches from Delavan in Tazewell County eastward to the Hartsburg and Emden areas.
Union Ridge Wind, a group dedicated to receiving more information about the erection of wind generators planned for the Railsplitter project by Horizon Wind Energy, is the group behind the action.
Attorney Richard Porter from Hinshaw Colbertson in Rockford has been retained to represent the group’s interests.
The Logan County Regional Zoning Commission received a letter from the Rockford attorney, according to Glen Fogler of Emden, a member of the local group that directed the lawyer write the letter. The letter requests that no decisions or discussions take place without the input of some of those who will be, or are being, affected.
Porter said Logan County Zoning Commissioner Will D’Andrea spoke to the board about the letter, and the board has decided to wait to take any action.
“I spoke with the administration at the Logan County zoning commission, and informed them that a number of parties haven’t received proper notice,” said Porter.
Upon inspecting the letter, D’Andrea agreed with his assessment, Porter said.
Because one of the steps was missed in the planning process – a requirement to notifying residents living within a certain range of the wind farm construction – the board will have to wait before proceeding with any future decisions.
“A group of people aren’t happy,” said board chairman Dick Logan. “For some reason, everyone within a quarter-mile radius of the wind farms had to be notified, and for some reason they weren’t.”
Fogler fears the view from his windows will turn from open country to the site of three wind generators within a short distance of his house. Within another mile away, several other windmills are planned.
Fogler said one of his main concerns is the possibility his property value will decrease because the 400-ft. structures raise noise concerns and are visual distractions.
“The towers are pretty tall, and the sun reflecting off of those blades can be very distracting,” Fogler said. “It’s a health concern. It’s like having a strobe light constantly flickering in your neighborhood.”
Other lifestyle concerns also exist. Fogler said there may be the possibility towers located close to residential areas will interfere with both phone and satellite television service. He also feels the National Weather Service’s Dopler radar in Logan County may be affected.
Fogler said one of the main purposes of his group is to gather as much information it can about the project and disseminate it to the public. He feels the county board acted too fast in making its decision, without receiving information that would be relevant to people who weren’t participating in the wind farm experiment.
“We’re hoping we raise enough questions that the zoning board and county board will investigate this,” he said. “They’ve only had one source for their information. You can’t make an informed decision like that.”
County board finance chairman Chuck Ruben said he was aware of the opposition, but he didn’t feel comfortable commenting – even voting – on the issue. Currently, Ruben is one of the area landowners who stands to make a financial gain by leasing his land to the wind farm. Current plans call for multiple windmills to be located on his land.
“I have a direct interest, so I won’t be participating in voting or discussion,” Ruben said. “I don’t think that would be fair.”
Fogler feels the information about the wind farms has been pretty much restricted to just those who are participating. He said the approximately 15 people who make up the group have “no financial interest,” and feel their voices aren’t being heard.
“No consideration is given to people who are homeowners and live in a wind farm district,” he said.
Fogler said it is unlikely he will receive any information about the effects of the wind farms from his farming neighbors. Those who participated apparently signed a contract with Horizon that restricts them from discussing any details of the arrangement or from sharing any additional information.
“We were told by farmers they can’t talk about it,” Fogler said. “I don’t know a lot of the answers, because nobody is answering.”
Another problem with the wind farms, according to Fogler, is that the companies appear to change hands frequently. He says Horizon is operated mostly out of Portugal, and getting someone to adress your concerns may not be an easy task.
“Already the companies are changing hands,” Fogler said. “Eventually, they wear out. Who’s going to take them down? That money has to be sitting somewhere. You think they’d be interested in the scrap metal, but who’s responsible?
“Is there an escrow account set up … county, local or state … so we won’t be left holding the bag?”
Horizon does have a decommissioning fund on hand, according to information the company gave to the Hartsburg-Emden Ag issues team. That means if the wind farm goes out of business, they claim they’ll have enough money set aside to remove the turbines.
However, most of the concrete bases will remain even after the turbines are gone.
The Union Ridge Wind group will meet Monday for further discussion.
An opposition group will also be attending the Tazewell County zoning board meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in the Law and Justice Center to voice its concerns.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
1 April 2008