Hartsburg, Ill. – Horizon Wind Energy and its opponents are back for Round 2.
An announcement in The Courier Monday from the Logan County Regional Planning Commission notified property owners of the second round of hearings on the proposed Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
Horizon is reapplying for conditional use permits to begin construction of the 29 wind turbines in northern Logan County near the Hartsburg area.
The regional planning commission will have a hearing to give its recommendation at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Logan County Courthouse, with the zoning board of appeals’ public hearing set for 7:30 p.m. June 17 at Hartsburg-Emden High School.
The matter was originally on the commission’s April agenda, but when a property owner complained about the notification process, the commission had to postpone discussing the matter until May.
When the May hearings began, it seemed like the process would move forward, but the notification issue just wouldn’t go away.
Tomorrow’s new round of hearings will seem like a rerun for many.
In early May, Horizon already received approval from the planning commission after an approximately three-hour meeting.
After the approval, the matter moved to a two-step hearing process. Horizon was set to give its arguments first at Hartsburg-Emden High School, with the opposition providing a cross-examination exactly one week after Horizon’s presentation.
When the first zoning board of appeals meeting began to proceed, however, Horizon decided to withdraw its initial application in attempt to avoid any legal problems, which may have stemmed from the company failing to notify all residents who may have been affected.
Phil Mahler, Logan County’s regional planner, said the county was extra vigilant in making sure all property owners involved were notified, so the process could continue without any glitches.
“We want to make sure everyone within a quarter-mile radius is aware,” Mahler said. “We sent out double the amount of letters, so everybody knows.”
Mahler said the extra effort was put forth so there would be no grounds for legal appeal. Although this is the case, Mahler said he expects attorneys from both Horizon and its opposition to appear for arguments.
“It’s the hottest topic in the Hartsburg-Emden area,” Mahler said. “There shouldn’t be anyone up there who doesn’t know about it.”
Mahler stands by statements he made last month about the wind farms being both quiet and safe for area wildlife.
“It doesn’t kill birds, and it’s not that noisy,” Mahler said. “Farmers get compensated well.”
Mahler said he has continued speaking with residents who live near the wind turbines in order to get their opinion on how it affects the community’s quality of life.
“For every one person who doesn’t like it,” Mahler said, “we will talk to five that do like them.”
Union Ridge Wind, a group of property owners who say they will be affected by the construction of the wind turbines, has been the most vocal in opposing Horizon’s plans.
Glen Fogler, a member of the group, said the turbines are only quiet when a strong wind isn’t present.
“When the propeller gets going, it sounds like a big airplane taking off,” Fogler said. “And, (the disturbance) is based on how close you live to the turbines.”
Rich Porter, a Rockford attorney representing the group, will likely be present at Wednesday’s hearing.
At the last regional commission meeting, Porter brought up everything from illnesses caused by wind turbines to the possibility of the structures decreasing property values in the area.
He is likely to argue again that conditions do not meet the criteria for a special-use permit.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
3 June 2008
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