Proponents and opponents of the Cayuga Ridge Wind Farm presented evidence Monday, as a fourth session of a public hearing on the project was held, with another scheduled tonight.
Seventeen of the approximately 70 people attending the three-hour session spoke to the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals, which is holding the hearing and will make a recommendation to the Livingston County Board on the special use permit needed for a wind farm under county zoning.
Twenty-eight people who had registered to speak at the hearing did not respond when their names were called. The hearing continues at 7 tonight in the PTHS auditorium; the first three sessions were April 28-30.
Iberdrola Renewables, a Spain-based company which acquired wind farm developer PPM Energy on May 1, wants to develop an up-to 155-turbine Streator-Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm. The towers would be on 15,000 acres east of Interstate 55 and between Odell and Emington in three townships.
The first person presenting evidence Monday, Judy Campbell, of Manville, and a candidate for the Livingston County Board, cited “cumulative” negative impacts of the proposed wind farm, on people, agriculture and the rural character of the county. She said wind energy has an “uncertain future” and that the Cayuga Ridge project was not consistent in all respects with the county’s comprehensive plan. She contended the project did not meet six of eight criteria for granting the special use permit it would require.
She said the development of wind farms proposed for the county was unplanned and scattered.
Mike Moschetti, of Odell, told the board that “no one’s going to buy my house” with wind turbines nearby. “I won’t be able to sell it. I won’t even be able to rent it.”
Scott Knight, mayor of Flanagan and assistant chief of the Flanagan-Graymont Fire Department, who has worked on the Twin Groves Wind Farm in McLean County, said “The developers are very, very conscientious of the landowners” and remind workers that they are “visitors” on their properties.
Linda Heiser, of Odell, has farmed 43 years with her husband in Odell and Union townships, and said they are “strongly in favor” of the wind farm.
“Would we support this project if it adversely affected the value of our farmland? Of course not.”
She cited the property tax revenue to units of government, income to farmers and the environmental benefits of wind energy.
Another farmland owner in Union Township, Gerald Miller said he, his wife and his mother-in-law have “mixed feelings” about a wind farm but that they are “probably inevitable, so our feelings really don’t matter.”
Their property will be surrounded by turbines; the Millers had thought about retiring there, and their son was thinking of building a home. “That’s pretty much gone now,” he said. Miller said he thought the value of their property would be “negatively impacted” by a wind farm.
Richard Fox, of Emington, will have a turbine a half-mile from his Union Township home if the Cayuga Ridge project becomes a reality. The towers would fit in “reasonably well” with his farm, said Fox, who with friends visited a wind farm in northwest Iowa two years ago. They had “not one negative response” from several landowners they spoke with – those with and without towers on their land.”
Fox said he had several meetings with neighbors and representatives of the company building the wind farm, he said, noting that the families of some of the 90 landowners who agreed to towers have farmed their land for a century or more.
“I strongly urge you to support this project,” Fox said.
Mark Hilleary, a landowner and former member of the Odell Grade School board of education, also favored the project. He said it was “definitely the right time, especially for our schools.” In 2000, that school district had 140 students. In 2007, it had 200. “The school needs this funding badly,” he said of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes projected to come to the district from the wind farm.
Hilleary submitted as an exhibit a letter signed by Odell Grade district staff supporting the wind farm.
He said he is building a house “right in the middle of the wind farm project.”
Livingston County Board member Carolyn Gerwin, speaking as a resident and not as a board member, introduced as an exhibit some letters from residents. She said the project has “a lot of areas of risk that make me very concerned,” including a lack of a property-value guarantee plan. She said the application was incomplete, including no finalized road agreements with the townships involved.
She asked the zoning board to look out for the interests of all county residents in its decision on whether to recommend a special use permit.
Cheryl and Jason Tate, of Blackstone, expressed concerns including the proximity of the turbines to residences. She said the company had “vague replies to specific questions” and asked the zoning board to consider all the impacts the wind farm would have.
Parker Bane, agriculture teacher at Pontiac Township High School, said he saw the project as “a diversification issue” for agriculture in the county, and supported the project. His father has six turbines of the Twin Groves farm on his McLean County land, and they “are quiet,” making less noise than highway traffic. The developer has followed through with all promises it made, and the township roads “are in the best shape they ever have been in my lifetime,” he said.
Saunemin Mayor Mike Stoecklin, chairman of the recently formed economic development council for the county, said he resented the implication that his sole interest in the wind farm was tax generation. Economic development includes a number of factors, he said, including job creation and tourism.
As mayor of a small town, he said keeping its school open is a priority for the town’s overall benefit; Stoecklin has taught at Saunemin Grade School, which will get tax money from the wind farm, for 15 years.
Seventeen-year-old Michael Gall, of Odell, said he plans to stay in Livingston County, as a fourth-generation county resident. Farmers like his family would be “foolish” to do anything that would harm his land. He said he’s visited Twin Groves more than a dozen times, and that the turbines were quiet, there were safer, wider roads, and no piles of dead birds, an allusion to some comments made at previous sessions of the hearing.
Pat Watson, of Odell, a landlord who has had a meteorological tower on his land since May 2005 to monitor wind speeds for PPM, said “the benefits far outweigh the risks” for the Cayuga Ridge farm.
Ronald Graves, of Odell, told the board that as a trustee of his late father’s farm he, along with his sisters, believe the wind farm is a “win-win-win” development, with 15 to 20 acres of his land involved.
“It’d be nice to have a blacktop road,” he said of the gravel one he now has. “I think we’ll find the benefits (of the wind farm) will far outweigh the risks.
By John Faddoul, Staff Reporter
13 May 2008