PEKIN – The balance of opinion tipped toward negative Tuesday night, as land owners near a proposed wind farm continued to urge the county to halt the building of wind turbines.
Tazewell County’s Zoning Board of Appeals held a public meeting Tuesday night – the second of its kind at the Tazewell County Justice Center – to consider a special permit application recently filed by Horizon Wind Energy for the erection of 38 turbines in Tazewell County.
One property owner threw a monkey wrench into Horizon’s plans when he filed a motion to continue the public hearings.
Luke Taylor of Delavan said in an interview that he wants more time to challenge Horizons’ claims. He said that two of the proposed turbines will be built very close to his home.
A fourth public hearing will now take place so that Taylor can introduce witnesses and evidence to ZBA members. A fifth public hearing will then occur so that Horizon Wind Energy can respond to Taylor’s challenges.
Taylor – a lawyer who works in Tazewell County – had his lawyer file the motion for him. When asked why a lawyer would need another lawyer to file a motion, Taylor said that Horizon is part of a large corporation and he cannot fight them alone.
Troy Schmidgall lives near the northwest tip of the proposed wind turbine chain. “The home I just bought will be surrounded by them,” Schmidgall told a reporter before the meeting began. He only recently purchased his property and fears that its value will go down once the turbines go up.
Citizen after citizen spoke out against the wind turbines. Many shared Schmidgall’s fear and echoed his claim that the value of property within the turbine chain will diminish.
Wendel Hoffman of Delavan lives within a mile of one proposed turbine. “Don’t you think something like this should have had a little more advertisement – (something) that affects so many people?” he said to ZBA members.
Ronald Maurer – also of Delavan – said the land in question is zoned for agriculture and should stay that way. “I’ve heard the phrase ‘We need more power.’ Has anyone heard of conservation?” Maurer asked ZBA members.
Another Delavan man, Rod Egli, said his home will be surrounded by 15 proposed turbines. Two of the towers will be within 2,500 feet of his backyard, he said. “This will definitely light my backyard up with red flashing lights.”
Glen Fogler of Emden warned ZBA members that wind-energy plants only survive on government subsidies. “This whole wind farm project is strictly about tax credits,” Fogler said. He added that he has never been included in conversations about the proposed wind farm. “My property rights are being violated.”
Taylor also spoke, pointing out that Horizon’s own permit application shows that the turbines will violate state noise pollution guidelines. He said he and his wife drove out to McLean County – where Horizon already has wind turbines. He described the noise from one turbine as a whistle mixed with a low, repetitive thud. “The noise was horrendous,” Taylor said.
Nearly three hours worth of public testimony had transpired before Schmidgall had a chance to speak. He had to cut much from his prepared speech, so as not to repeat the claims, fears and allegations of those who had spoken before him.
“We are committing ourselves to something that could diminish the community, rather than embrace it,” Schmidgall said. He spoke about the possible consequences of the seven ZBA members’ decision. “Seven of you will make a decision that will affect me and my family for the rest of my life.”
After the meeting, Whitlock agreed that all of the speakers had negative things to say about Horizon’s plans. However, he added that not all of the citizens present had a chance to speak their minds, Tuesday night. Nearly 20 had signed up to speak. Only about half of them were given time.
One individual supporting the wind farm was Greg Tarter, a farmer from Delavan. When a reporter asked Tarter for his opinion, he said he has read that real estate near wind turbines has not declined in value. “I don’t want to see wind farms. I want to see amber waves of grain, but that (expletive) is over,” Tarter said when asked to respond to the many negative opinions tossed at Horizon Tuesday night. “Nobody wants a nuclear power plant. Nobody wants a coal plant. I’ll take a wind farm any day.”
The ZBA’s next public hearing will be April 15 at 6 p.m. at the Tazewell County Justice Center.
By Nick Vogel
Times staff writer
10 April 2008