Tazewell County’s Zoning Board of Appeals took the wind out of anti-wind-power protesters who fought hard to stop the erection of wind turbines in their backyards.
ZBA members decided Wednesday to permit Horizon Wind Energy to build 38 wind turbines east of Interstate 155 in Tazewell County. Another 29 will be built in Logan County, making up the so-called Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
The ZBA has been meeting on and off over the past two months to hear evidence brought forth by Horizon in support of its application for a special use permit.
Luke Taylor, a resident of rural Delavan objected to the evidence Horizon submitted and requested the right to call experts and challenge Horizon’s application.
During three hours of conversation, Wednesday night, ZBA members rarely considered the evidence presented by Taylor.
When ZBA member Steve Larson pointed this out, his comment was answered with silence.
As the night wore on and it became apparent that the ZBA would vote to allow the permit, wind-power protesters left the hearing room, one by one.
Taylor said he was disappointed that Horizon got permit approval. He said he was most disappointed that the board seemed to “bend over backwards” to ignore the fact that Horizon’s own application shows that some of the proposed turbines would exceed the noise levels allowed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
“In my mind, it’s clear (the ZBA members) were intent on approving this,” Taylor said Wednesday night. Taylor suggested that evidence against Horizon, if discussed Wednesday night, would impede the ZBA’s ability to approve the permit.
ZBA member Mary Hoeft said she had not already made up her mind before deliberating with the other ZBA members. She said she made her decision over the past three months.
When the ZBA discussed the impact wind turbines might have on property values, Hoeft said she wanted to “get something off her chest” and called one of Taylor’s witnesses a “so-called expert.”
While talking about whether or not the wind turbines will affect farmers’ ability to have their crops sprayed from airplanes, Hoeft said she sympathizes, but thinks people need to “get with the program.”
After Wednesday night’s deliberation, Hoeft said wind-power protesters were misguided. “I felt a lot of them were reading things off the Internet, reading things that weren’t their thoughts,” she said. She added that she would feel comfortable having wind turbines around her home.
ZBA member Ken Zimmerman – who rarely spoke during the deliberation – called the wind power plant objectors professional protesters. He said that this issue brought a lot of emotions out of the people involved. “When you weigh all the factors, the positives outweigh all the negatives by a certain amount,” Zimmerman said.
In Tazewell County, special use permits do not need to be approved by the county board. Now that Horizon has received permission to build, they may.
At a recent land use committee meeting, county board member Russ Crawford suggested that in the future, major land use permits like a wind power plant should go to the county board for a vote. Crawford said he expects the land use committee to consider the amendment at the next land use committee meeting.
If recommended by that committee, the amendment would move to the county board for approval. Crawford said the amendment proposal has nothing to do with Horizon’s permit application. He said that if approved, the amendment would not affect Horizon’s permit.
By Nick Vogel
5 June 2008
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