PRINCETON – Wind farms developed in Bureau County will not have to bury their transmission lines underground.
At Tuesday’s meeting in Princeton, the Bureau County Board heard from seven members of the public on a proposed text amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance on wind farms. The text amendment would require transmission lines to be buried.
When it came time for the county board to vote on the proposed amendment, Zoning Committee Chairman William Bennett said he would make the motion to approve the text amendment in order to get the motion before the board. The motion died for lack of a second.
The text amendment would affect, most immediately, the proposed 150-turbine Walnut Ridge wind farm in northern and western portions of Bureau County. Walnut Ridge plans to use six miles of overhead transmission lines to move power from its substation to a Commonwealth Edison power grid. Burying the transmission lines would add another $15 million to $21 million to construction costs, plus complicate future line repairs and maintenance, the developers have said.
Among those speaking at Tuesday’s meeting were Bureau Valley Superintendent Terry Gutshall, who said the passage of the text amendment would deter future wind projects in Bureau County, which would negatively impact the Bureau Valley School District as well as the entire county. The building of Walnut Ridge would increase Bureau Valley’s Equalized Assessed Valuation by $33 million, which would result in an additional $1.8 million in annual property taxes for the district.
Bureau Valley School Board member Keith Bolin said the additional income from Walnut Ridge to the district would mean the district could implement new programs, build reserves and possibly lower property taxes for residents. The wind farm project also brings money into the farmers pockets, he said.
Princeton attorney Paul Scoma, representing Eurus Crescent Ridge wind farm in southern Bureau County, said passing the text amendment, though not directly dealing with his project, could still have a detrimental impact on Eurus Crescent Ridge.
On the other side of the issue, Walnut resident Rodger Schwind said the Walnut Ridge project is the largest wind farm project in the county and therefore has the greatest environmental impact. It makes common sense to him to put transmission lines underground, Schwind said. He recommended an independent study be done to make sure the turbines won’t interfere with cell phones and emergency communications.
Making the final presentation for the meeting was Larry Gerdes, a Walnut property owner, who supported the proposed text amendment. Gerdes asked the county board to halt further wind farm development in the county until more studies could be done. Among his concerns were possible noise pollution, decreased property value and a harm to the value of life.
Also addressing the county board were attorneys Frederic Lane and Paul Stephanides, both representing the Bureau Valley School District.
By Donna Barker
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
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