Union Ridge Wind took its plea to the Logan County Board Thursday to either deny a conditional-use permit for Horizon Wind Energy to build a wind farm in northern Logan County or to include a property value guarantee to insure against any potential loss of members’ assets.
Opposing lawyers – Rockford attorney Rick Porter, representing URW, and Horizon’s attorney Frank Miles – were on hand, along with both opposition and proponents of the wind turbines.
Following the arguments, a motion to approve the conditional-use permit passed with a 9-2-1 vote. Since the meeting was a workshop session, official votes won’t be counted until Tuesday.
Board members Chuck Ruben and John Stewart abstained from voting due to conflicts of interest.
Ruben abstained, because members of his family are entering into contract agreements to lease their land to Horizon for wind turbine locations. Stewart did the same due to his employment at a Clinton plant, which produces wind turbines.
Board member William Sahs did not vote. Due to an upcoming medical procedure, he will be unable to officially vote on the matter Tuesday.
Porter, who cited noise violations already occurring in operating wind farms, said he will continue to fight the process and indicated he may file a complaint with the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
The Rockford attorney said his experts have already established multiple violations of this board’s standards.
Porter also asked for a property value guarantee if the board was to approve construction.
“It costs you nothing, and it will buy some harmony,” said Porter.
Porter said Horizon has already invested too much time and money in the Rail Splitter Wind Farm to pick up and leave if the county requests such a guarantee.
“They’re here to stay,” said Porter.
In one of the first times throughout the application hearings, Miles explained to the board the three-year process of designing the Railsplitter Wind Farm.
Miles said Horizon first came to the area in the spring of 2005.
“We tried to find out where the wind was good,” he said.
Next, Miles said the company took advantage of public interest in “wind, renewable and green energy.”
From there, Horizon conducted meetings in an attempt to build support among landowners. The company also invited local citizens and public officials to tour the Twin Groves operation in neighboring McLean County in an effort to build more support for the Rail Splitter project, which straddles the Logan and Tazewell county line.
Then, the company hired experts to examine the five standards needed for conditional-use approval.
“You created five standards,” said Miles. “Horizon hired experts to try and address your standards.”
Applications were then filed in both Tazewell and Logan counties for the construction of Railsplitter Wind Farm.
Tazewell County has already given its approval.
Miles also addressed concerns raised by two households in the vicinity of the McLean County project who cited difficulties with living close to the wind turbines.
Renee Taylor, who lives in the middle of the Twin Groves operation, said her family suffered medical issues stemming from Wind Turbine Syndrome, an illness so named by New York doctor Nina Pierpont.
In an earlier interview, Taylor said Pierpont diagnosed her with this syndrome.
Pierpont testified about this syndrome in a New York Legislature Energy Committee, after she said unregulated wind turbines were causing health issues in the poorest county in her state.
“These are not farms … these are large, industrial installations,” testified Pierpont. “They make large-scale, industrial noise.”
The New York doctor cited symptoms, such as sleep problems, headaches, dizziness, depression and ringing in the ears.
Miles insisted the issue with Taylor has little to do with medical problems.
“With Taylor, it was how much money will you pay me to go away,” he said.
Miles said Taylor asked Horizon to cough up $750,000 for a property that was appraised at $185,000. The company refused to pay the requested amount.
“We’ve fought her ever since,” said Miles.
The Knittles are another family that aired complaints about living around the Twin Groves project. They said the turbines were so loud, they could hear the noise while they were brushing their teeth.
Miles said, for Horizon, settling their issue was also about money.
“They wanted $350,000 in landscaping,” said Miles. “We weren’t willing to go that far for them.”
Miles then asked the county board to take time to review the Logan County Zoning Board of Appeals’ transcripts of public hearings on the conditional-use petition, or trust in the decision of its appointed representatives.
Following Miles’ argument, county board chairman Dick Logan took a minute to address an earlier allegation that he was not available to address concerns of URW members.
Cheryl Wagner, a member of the opposition group, said she posted a note to Logan through The Courier’s “comments section” of its Web site. Wagner scolded Logan for not responding.
Logan said he represents 30,000 county residents, not just one or two.
“I’ve never refused to talk to anyone,” said Logan. “Don’t say I’m not available.”
Logan also said he doesn’t sit in front of the Internet all day, commenting habits like this were “ruining our country.”
The county board chairman said he has talked to many people in the area about the issue, and most residents are in favor of the proposed construction.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
11 July 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding