A Woodford County Board committee voted Monday to recommend that the board act as a “facilitator” in bringing the El Paso Wind Farm to a vote.
“To me it’s just a total failure of leadership,” central services committee Chairman Gary Jones of East Peoria said. “Maybe this does no good, but I know what doing nothing does.”
Jones said the intent is not to recommend a vote for or against the wind farm, but an effort to get an agreement that the full board can vote on.
Board member Larry Whitaker engineered a 3-2 vote last week at the road and bridge committee to recommend that the El Paso Wind Farm be placed on the agenda for a vote at its May 20 meeting.
County Board Chairman John Krug has argued such a vote would be illegal because Zoning Board of Appeals has already taken testimony and closed the matter. The ZBA approved a special use permit with stipulations about road repairs, but those remain unresolved.
Whitaker’s action caused Krug to remove Whitaker from his seats on the road and bridge committee, the conservation, planning and zoning Committee and the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.
Whitaker said the move was “political retaliation,” and that he would continue to act in what he feels is in the best interests of taxpayers.
At the full board meeting last month, Whitaker made a motion to put the wind farm on the May agenda, but that was ruled out of order by Krug.
The ZBA approved a special-use permit for the 40-turbine 3,000-acre wind farm last summer with the stipulation that the developer, Minneapolis, Minn.-based Navitas, reach an agreement with three township road commissioners for maintenance of township roads that might be damaged during construction.
Several members of the public, mainly opponents of the wind farm, have attempted to address the board on the issue since then, but Woodford County State’s Attorney Michael Stroh has advised that further testimony cannot be taken after action by the ZBA.
It was not clear whether Krug could legally remove Whitaker from committees without approval of the board because the chairman appoints committee members with consent of the board.
Stroh has been asked for a legal opinion on the issue.
Paul Lewis of Peoria, Navitas’ local attorney, said the road commissioners have not responded to a company offer.
“It’s pretty hard to negotiate with someone who hasn’t responded for eight months now,” Lewis said.
Navitas, which has since sold the development to the investment firm Babcock and Brown, offered the townships a letter of credit to pay for any damage during construction and any future damage caused by the turbine project, Lewis said. He said the townships have asked for what amounts to an additional $1.4 million above the costs of any repairs.
“We’d love to have the commissioners tell us what that $1.4 million would be used for,” Lewis said. “The township commissioners have never told us what they are trying to protect so we could work out an agreement.”
By Jerry McDowell
13 May 2008
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