Proponents of and those skeptical about Livingston County’s first wind farm summarized their positions as a public hearing continued Tuesday, with one more session scheduled for tonight, and then the process continuing in June.
Today’s 7 p.m. session, held by the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals in the auditorium at Pontiac Township High School, will be for any resident or property owner who previously testified but was unable to attend last night. About 30 people were in Tuesday’s audience, only a third the number who showed up for the first session of the hearing, on April 28.
On June 19, the applicant for the special use permit required for the Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm, Iberdrola Renewables, will give final closing arguments to the zoning board. The board can then start deliberating on whether to recommend the permit to the Livingston County Board, which is currently scheduled to take action in July.
Two members of that board, and a woman who is likely to be elected to it in November, were among those speaking – as county residents – at Tuesday’s session. All expressed doubts about the project in particular and current aspects of wind energy in general.
Member Carolyn Gerwin asked the zoning board to consider “what’s good for the county as a whole” and said it was uncertain if the federal tax credit for wind energy will be extended. “This industry is not profitable without these massive subsidies,” she said.
Gerwin also contended that the 155 turbines planned, and scattered across 15,000 acres, will limit a new, countywide economic development organization’s ability “to plan and have options” to attract business developers.
She also referred to studies made for Iberdrola’s predecessor PPM Energy, “that reach the right answers,” said the farm would not create “a lot of new jobs” compared to communities 30 miles from the county along Interstate 55, and asked that a decommissioning plan for the towers be “in a legally enforceable format from a company that has resources.”
She asked that the zoning board take “a long-term view and a vision for our community.”
Frank Deninger, also a County Board member, called wind energy “a small addition to (meeting) our energy needs” and said it was “insignificant, at least at the present time,” in lessening U.S. reliance on foreign oil. Iberdrola’s status as one of the world’s largest electric companies is the kind of company to take a chance on, he said, and that “the best thing that could happen is for the negatives to be neutralized and the naysayers to be chagrined.”
“And I shall be watching for it,” he concluded.
Judy Campbell, of rural Cornell and a candidate for County Board in an uncontested District 2 in November, also questioned financial aspects of the wind industry, and said that if it does grow it will cause “more transformation” in the county’s appearance.
Residents who favor the wind farm also spoke.
“I have not heard anything that would change my mind,” said Linda Heiser, who has attended all six nights of the hearing and an Odell-area farmer. That thought was also noted by Jane Drury, who said she and the other 11 people who have spoken in favor of the farm at the sessions think the project is good for every county resident and the school districts in the wind-farm area, partly because of the tax revenue it will generate for schools and other units of local government.
Mark Hilleary, of Odell and a former school board member there, said the tax money would help districts with aging school buildings, such as Pontiac Township High School and Odell.
Cheryl Tate, of Blackstone, asked that “truly independent” experts be brought in and asked the board to consider other options.
“You might gain 25 employees, but how many will you lose,” Melinda Cusack, of Blackstone, said about one effect of the wind farm. Four families in one square mile around her home “are most probably going to leave” if the farm is built, she said. She suggested tabling the project and watching other areas of Illinois “There’s always going to be another one,” she said of wind-energy companies looking for sites, and perhaps Iberdrola would return.
Iberdrola officials presented some rebuttal evidence at the start of Tuesday’s session, and will make their closing arguments June 19.
On Tuesday, attorney Mike Massie told the zoning board that its process has been “as open and as balanced as any we’ve seen.”
He repeated the A-C-E argument that was presented at the first session: agriculture, community and energy. He said the Cayuga Ridge project meets the county’s zoning ordinance requirements for a special use permit.
The director of wind plan operations for the company, Scott Winneguth, said Iberdrola is committed to “operational vitality and a long-term commitment to the wind farm here, with a 50-year lifespan in mind, not the 25 years of some other farms.
By John Faddoul, Staff Reporter
21 May 2008
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