The Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals met Tuesday night to hear from a representative of Horizon Wind Energy, the company hoping to build a wind power plant that will lie partly near Delavan.
The project’s director of development, Bill Whitlock, sat through three hours of questioning from lawyers and members of the public, many of whom had voiced their objections to the power plant at similar hearings in the past.
Before the power plant is built, Horizon must get special permit approval from the ZBA. Tuesday night’s meeting was one of several held after Delavan resident Luke Taylor objected to evidence presented in Horizon’s permit application.
All of the meetings have gone over three hours, some lasting more than four hours as person after person took advantage of his or her right to cross examine expert witnesses from both sides of the debate.
“Mr. Whitlock, you’re the last surviving witness,” joked the ZBA Chairman Loren Toevs at the beginning of Tuesday night’s hearing.
Horizon’s lawyer began the questioning by asking Whitlock if he has heard of any noise complaints about a similar wind power plant Horizon has built in Illinois. Whitlock said no.
Whitlock explained Horizon’s “good neighbors” program, which pays residents near wind turbines $1,000 per year. Whitlock also said Horizon encourages people to come to them with complaints.
On cross examination, Taylor’s lawyer, Chris Spanos, also asked Whitlock about noise complaints. Spanos focused on one property owner who filed a lawsuit against Horizon for alleged noise nuisance. Spanos said that Horizon offered that same property owner a $25,000 settlement if she would not speak at future wind power plant hearings. “Is it not true that (the property owner) brought suit against Horizon to stop the noise?” Spanos asked.
Whitlock said he was not present during negotiations. “I was not (project) director at the time that suit was filed,” he said.
Spanos next said that Horizon was investigated by authorities for illegally contacting city officials.
“I’m vaguely familiar with a number of suits being brought against a number of developments in upstate New York,” Whitlock said. Spanos said that Horizon is one of those companies being sued.
Spanos asked Whitlock about Horizon’s attempts to have Pekin’s enterprise zone changed. Whitlock said Horizon is still “unclear” as to whether or not the wind power plant will be built if the enterprise zone is not extended.
The county – working together with the City of Pekin – has proposed expanding Pekin’s enterprise zone so that Horizon could purchase wind turbines tax-free. In exchange, the company would pay the municipalities a $300,000 certification fee.
If approved, Horizon would not have to pay sales tax on wind turbines built in Illinois, saving the company millions of dollars. The county has not yet voted to approve the enterprise zone expansion.
The ZBA will meet again on May 27 to hear closing statements from Spanos, Horizon wind energy and members of the public who object to the creation of the power plant. The board will meet on a tentative date of June 4 to deliberate and decide whether to approve the permit.
Editor’s note: In the last article written about these hearings, the Pekin Daily Times erroneously reported that the ZBA decides whether to recommend permit approval to the county board. According to Kristal Deininger, administrator of the county’s community development department, once the ZBA decides to approve Horizon’s application for a special use permit, the company may begin building. The Times regrets the error.
By Nick Vogel
Times staff writer
21 May 2008
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