Tazewell zoning panel hears from group that halted Logan meetings
PEKIN – Emden resident Barb Aper appeared before the Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday to voice opposition and request more information about the Rail Splitter Wind Farm project before officials make any decisions.
Aper is a member of the recently organized group called Union Ridge Wind. The group is dedicated to giving a voice to area residents who aren’t participating in the wind farm project, but may be affected by its use and construction.
The group has blocked wind farm discussion at Logan County government meetings because several residents did not received legally required notices about zoning hearings related to the wind farm.
“We were caught totally off guard,” she said.
Aper said already, she has noticed a difference of opinion in her community.
“We were very disappointed seeing that (a) line had been drawn in the sand.”
She said the federal government will subsidize the wind farm and questioned Horizon’s motivation for building a wind farm at all.
Reading from a prepared letter, she expressed disappointment that no one asked her and her husband how they feel.
After the hearing, Aper said in an interview with GateHouse News Service that she and others were responsible for halting similar proceedings in Logan County.
Logan County Board members planned to discuss the project at tonight’s zoning committee meeting, but they have agreed to wait, based upon a recent request for the residents to receive official notification of board proceedings.
Logan County zoning officer Will D’Andrea said he received a letter Monday from Richard Porter, a Rockford attorney for Union Ridge, requesting a 30-day continuance.
“I wasn’t sure we would do that, but apparently, there wasn’t adequate notice given to us about all of the residents within a quarter-mile area,” D’Andrea said.
“Horizon did not provide us the names.”
According to D’Andrea, every person living within a quarter-mile of a wind farm generator must be given proper notification, so the resident will have the opportunity to give their opinion and voice concerns. Horizon was supposed to provide the names of the residents who needed to be notified, and the Logan County zoning office was responsible for making contact with these individuals.
Horizon has applied for conditional-use zoning permits, but will have to wait until the county board receives the green light before the requests are considered.
Applying for a conditional-use permit was the first step of the zoning process for Horizon. The zoning board will review the application, and forward its recommendation to the Logan County Board for a final vote.
Even with the conditional use permit, Horizon will still have to request building permits from D’Andrea’s office. D’Andrea has the sole authority to issue the permits.
“The building permits are all reviewed by me,” D’Andrea said. “This is all happening in unincorporated Logan County, so (no) city is involved.
“Just because the (conditional) use is allowed, they might not be able to build it. They still have to meet all of the (building code) criteria.”
Meanwhile, opposition to the Logan-Tazewell wind farm is coming from pilots, including crop dusters, who have also voiced concerns about the tall structures.
Bill Sahs of the Logan County Board’s airport committee said this is one of the issues the county is currently looking at.
“They’ll have to fly over 500 feet, because the towers sit 400-feet tall, and the blades are higher than the strobe light” said Sahs. “Some pilot organizations are just expressing some concerns.
“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is on top of that stuff.”
Brandon Flexsenher, a crop duster pilot, said at Tuesday’s hearing in Pekin he opposes the wind farm because wind turbines “are not fun to work around.” He said they pose a danger to pilots.
Last year, he barely missed hitting a structure because wind turbines stole his attention, he said. Flexsenher added that he will never again fly over land near wind turbines. He called the spinning blades of the turbines “mesmerizing.”
Before the public input portion of the meeting, Bill Whitlock, project development manager for the proposed Rail Splitter Wind Farm, gave the ZBA members an overview of their application.
While presenting Horizon’s answers to the general standards of the special use permit, Whitlock said the turbines will be set 1,500 feet from any public dwelling. As for the appearance of the turbines, Whitlock said they will be a non-reflective, off-white color that will appear to change colors and blend in with the background.
He also said that crop dusters are hardly affected by the turbines.
“I think we need this and I think we need it bad,” said Delavan resident Keith Haning, who came to voice support for the project that would cover more than 11,000 acres of farmland straddling Tazewell and Logan counties just east of Interstate 155.
Haning has seen wind farms in other counties and said, “I have yet to find one person who has been derogatory toward these wind towers.”
But Haning didn’t have to look far Tuesday night.
Kevin Sands of Morton said he plans to move back to his family’s farm in Emden. He opposes the wind turbines because they ruin the landscape, he said. He fears they will create noise pollution and decrease land value. He said crop dusters will charge him extra because his acreage is so close to where the turbines will be built.
Seven people, including crop dusters and people in the aviation field, objected to the 67-tower project. Kim Schertz of Hudson said she is a strong opponent of wind turbines. Her husband and son operate their own crop dusting business. Reading from a prepared statement, Schertz said the hazards turbines cause for pilots are only one of the dozens of reasons she opposes wind farms. She then went on to list reasons echoed by other citizens who also spoke at the meeting.
“It’s not fun to work around (wind towers),” said Pekin resident Brandon Flexsenhar, a crop duster who has had a close call with a tower in another county.
The Peoria-Journal Star contributed to this report.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz and Nick Vogel
GateHouse News Service
2 April 2008
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