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Board doesn’t give go-ahead just yet

The Walnut Ridge wind turbines won’t be blowing in the wind any time soon.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Bureau County Board voted unanimously to table action on granting conditional use permits for the turbines until the road agreement plan with the county is approved. The board also tabled granting conditional use permits to build three substations for the Walnut Ridge project in northwest Bureau County.

County Engineer John Gross said the county ordinance states the road agreement must be approved and adopted prior to the issue of conditional use permits. More information is needed on multiple issues, including exact location of turbines and access roads, expected delivery routes for materials and delivery routes for the turbine pieces themselves. The county still needs some essential pieces of information, Gross said.

“We are quite some time away from reaching a road agreement,” Gross said. “There are questions that have to be answered first. We are miles away from any road agreement.”

Bureau County’s roads were not build to handle the kind of construction traffic caused by Walnut Ridge, Gross said. The construction could take more than a year, which means it could affect the spring posting of roads, he said. Five township road commissioners also have to approve the road agreement, he said.

Steve Sondgeroth, chairman of the county’s transportation committee, said it would be premature to approve the road agreement until all needed information is received.

Board member Marcus Throneburg asked how long it would take to get the needed information from the developers. He didn’t want the county to hold up the construction of the wind farm, Throneburg said.

Tom Swierczewski, a representative for Walnut Ridge, said the wind farm will be built in phases, but he wasn’t sure what the final project would look like at this time.

When asked his opinion, State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann said the county’s zoning code requires the road agreement be in place prior to granting conditional use permits for the turbines.

Walnut Ridge should be subject to the same requirements as previous wind farm applicants, Board Chairman Marc Wilt said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the county board did grant conditional use permits for Walnut Ridge to put up four meteorological towers on the proposed Walnut Ridge site.

On Friday, Donarski said Walnut Ridge will present plans for 14 more turbines at the July 30 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The results of that meeting will be presented at the August county board meeting.

By Donna Barker

Bureau County Republican

12 July 2008