A proposed wind farm that would lie partly in Tazewell County attracted mostly negative comments and opinions from the public Tuesday night.
At a special meeting held by the Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals, dozens of landowners and others affected by the proposed wind farm filled every available seat and lined the back walls of the Community Center in the Tazewell County Justice Center.
The ZBA held the meeting to consider a special permit application recently filed by Horizon Wind Energy for the erection of 38 turbines that will stand 389 feet tall at their highest point.
“Folks, we need the electricity,” said Boynton Township Supervisor Keith Haning, after representatives from Horizon had a chance to give an overview of their application.
Haning was the first member of the public to give a statement, and the only one to speak positively of the proposed turbines. “I think we need this and we need it bad. We got to wake up to this, folks,” Haning said. “We’ve had our heads up our butts these last couple years.”
He added that the wind turbines would be a positive shot in the arm for Boynton Township.
Barb Aper of Emden spoke next, saying Logan County officials did not give her and her husband enough warning about the wind farm. “We were caught totally off guard,” she said. She said that 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 that 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 that she and others helped stop similar proceedings in Logan County.
Union Ridge Wind
A group calling itself the Union Ridge Wind forced a halt to official discussion about the Railsplitter Wind Farm project at future Logan County board and committee meetings.
An attorney representing the Union Ridge Wind group said that a number of people were not notified properly by Logan County officials.
Crop dusters are another group upset with the wind turbines.
Brandon Flexsenher, a crop duster pilot, said 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.”
Another crop duster pilot spoke out against wind turbines saying that flying near them is not worth the risk.
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.
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.
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 that 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.
Whitlock cited what he says are the many benefits the wind turbines will bring to Tazewell County.
Whitlock said that:
€ The wind farm will create 14 full time jobs.
€ Farmers will receive regular lease payments.
€ People living near wind farms may be eligible for payments.
€ The county will receive tax revenue from the energy sold.
€ Wind turbines will present a modest opportunity for tourism.
€ The wind turbines create clean, renewable energy.
€ Public roads near the construction of turbines will be improved at Horizon’s cost.
Tuesday night’s meeting was only the first of three.
There will be another public meeting on April 9 and a third on April 15.
Frank Miles, a lawyer for Horizon, told the board members that he will have expert witnesses available for cross examination on April 15. The cross examination will only be available to people who register with the county ahead of time. Anyone interested should call Kristal Deininger at 477-2235 for instructions.
GHNS contributed to this report.
By Nick Vogel
Times Staff Writer
3 April 2008
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