Logan County – While the Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals was approving a proposed wind farm Wednesday, dealing a blow to opponents who hoped to stop the project, the hearing process on the project in Logan County was just restarting.
The Logan County Regional Planning Commission, repeating an action it had taken earlier, recommended the approval of a conditional-use permit for the construction of 29 wind turbines in the northern part of the county.
The commission’s approval is based upon Horizon being fully compliant with all county ordinances. The commission is awaiting an FFA determination of safety.
Frank Miles, an attorney representing Horizon Wind Energy, only spoke briefly at the Lincoln hearing before turning the floor over to Glen Fogler, a representative of Union Ridge Wind, a group opposed to the project.
Miles issued an apology to the “neighbors” around the wind farm location and to commission members for having to start the process over again. Horizon decided to withdraw its first application for the special-use permit after legal issues were raised about the required meeting notices being issued to residents around the project area.
Miles also pointed to additional supplemental materials, which were part of an informative packet originally handed out at the first regional planning commission meeting.
The additional materials included a supplement to a wind-turbine noise study.
“It’s more accurate, but the conclusion’s the same,” said Miles.
A market analysis on property values was also provided.
Miles also reminded the commission and those in attendance about a 7:30 p.m. June 17 public hearing the Logan County Zoning Board of Appeals will hold on the special-use petition at Hartsburg-Emden High School.
Miles promised a more thorough description of the studies, with testimony, and said more questions would be answered at that hearing.
Fogler, meanwhile, spoke directly from a handout he issued to the commission. The handout addressed the county’s comprehensive plan and pointed to alleged discrepancies between the 2006 plan and the commission’s desire to approve the construction of wind turbines.
Fogler cited several items from the comprehensive plan, including:
* Responsibility for the implementation of the regional comprehensive plan begins with the Logan County government.
* The plan envisions environmentally sound communities and regions with clean air and water and abundant open space and natural areas to provide or preserve scenic beauty, passive recreation, wildlife habitiat, and high quality farmland.
* Land use patterns and intensities should make efficient use of land and resources and enrich the local quality of life.
* The plan is concerned with outlining a basic course of a action to encourage development that preserves and enhances the local quality of life.
Fogler also provided other numerous points from the comprehensive plan that he felt went against the commission’s recommendation for the project.
“Horizon keeps saying the construction of the wind turbines will not change the use of the agricultural land – that farmers will still be able to farm the land, but you all seem to forget that there are residential properties, as well,” said Fogler. “It almost seems like we are insignificant.”
Meanwhile, at the Pekin zoning board of appeals hearing, some Tazewell County residents were equally disgruntled with that board’s decision.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with it,” said Delavan resident Beverly Egli, whose home will be surrounded by wind towers in the Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
The board deliberated for three hours before unanimously approving special use permits for the project that will cover more than 11,000 acres of farmland straddling Tazewell and Logan counties just east of Interstate 155.
“We’re ready to sell our house and I don’t think we’ll be able to sell our house,” said her husband, Rod Egli.
The towers each will be 389 feet tall, and 38 of the 67 towers will be in Tazewell County.
Opponents have said the towers will decrease property values, create hazards for crop dusters and ruin the landscape.
“There aren’t enough words,” Delavan resident Christy Parr said of her disappointment after the final vote. “It’s such a bigger deal than anybody in this county understands.”
Supporters have said the towers will bring in needed property taxes for the rural area and create a clean source of energy.
Project development manager Bill Whitlock and attorneys for Horizon did not attend the meeting Wednesday night. Whitlock told a GateHouse News Service reporter by phone after the meeting he was happy with the board’s decision.
“We’re extremely gratified and extremely excited about moving forward with the project and mending fences with our neighbors,” Whitlock said, referring to the bitter battle between both sides that played out during numerous public hearings in Tazewell County.
Horizon will sell energy to AmerenCILCO that will power about 30,000 homes in Illinois.
The project will be the second central Illinois wind farm development for Horizon, which operates the Twin Groves wind farm just east of Bloomington.
The total cost of the wind farm is expected to be between $175 million and $200 million.
The full Tazewell County Board will now vote to approve or deny the project’s road use agreement and decommissioning plan. If the county board denies either, the special use permits won’t be issued until an agreement is reached.
GateHouse News Service reporter Kevin Sampier contributed to this report.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
5 June 2008
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