County board hears additional public comment on wind farm; Residential property owners ask board’s support protecting property value
Thursday evening the Logan County Board opened its floor for citizens to speak their opinion one more time on the proposed Railsplitter Wind Farm.
Horizon Wind Energy is planning to put up 29 wind turbines in Logan County as part of Railsplitter Wind Farm. Horizon has requested conditional use of agriculture land for the production of electricity created by wind turbines.
The measure is set to come to a formal vote on Tuesday evening.
Residential property owners opposing wind farm
Barb Aper, a Logan County resident, questioned who would stand up for the people who would be living near the wind turbines and didn’t want them. She said named three county board members that she didn’t think would. Chuck Ruben’s family stands to gain financially, and John Stewart works for a company that makes a component for wind turbines. She said that Dick Logan has made biased statements toward the group and dismissed a request to table the matter. She felt that the board was more interested in growth than in their own citizens.
Cheryl Wagoner said that the wind turbines threaten home and property values, health, and a way of life. She charged the board, “Represent all of us.”
Glen Fogler of Emden felt that it was unfair that the people who live in the footprint of the wind farm should have to bear the burden of the project. They would be looking at the site of an industrial power plant. “The least amount of fairness to us is the property value guaranty plan,” he said.
Attorney Rick Porter, who represents those in opposition to the wind farm, read a list of about a dozen names that had hired him. The residents would be living in the footprint of the wind farm.
He said that the projected sound created by the turbines, using plus or minus 3 percent error, would violate the decibel limits set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
More importantly, Porter said that his clients are concerned with their property investment. He urged the board to pass the conditional use request only if it would have a property value guaranty from Horizon Wind energy for the residents.
The proposed property value guaranty offers a couple of variations of inclusion. Additionally, the options that they are asking Horizon to make to qualifying homeowners would only be offered for a limited time.
“Each turbine is $2 million (cost to build). This is a $200 million project. You could buy all of my clients’ properties for less than the cost of one turbine,” Porter said.
He concluded by saying that if the board would decide not to include a property value guaranty, his clients would be forced to move on and pursue a legal path where he would prove that the wind farm is not a conditional use of agricultural zoning. “This is a zoning change. You are changing this to an industrial area,” he said.
Endorsements for the wind farm
Cheryl Baker recalled how the land in the area has evolved since 1849, changing from prairie grass to agriculture and some mining. There were many changes, including the addition of roads and cell towers, all in the name of progress.
It is a small amount, less than 2 percent of the land, that would be used by the towers, she said.
“Farmers care for the land. They care for their neighbors and families, their schools, their close-knit community, cities, and the environment. We can use a perfect commodity that God gave us to create electricity to help the USA and the world,” she said
Brent Hellman, who farms in both Logan and Tazewell counties, said that his property would be affected in several ways with this project, but that there are changes and adjustments that you can make to help make this work.
He sees a couple of important benefits. One would be the taxes generated that would go to the county, school, road and fire districts. Logan County’s tax base is agricultural, and this is a way to diversify our tax base, he said.
Another benefit would be the green energy provided, no use of fossil fuels and no leftover wastes, he said.
Bob Pharis said that he is a Logan County Farm Bureau board member. The bureau participates in local and federal policies and has followed all the hearings. The bureau supports an alternative source of energy that does not rely on fossil fuel or make a bigger footprint or create landfills.
Pharis said that the bureau has researched where other projects have gone and “at no time seen property get cheaper because it was in this program. We did not see a reduction of land value or houses.”
Frank Miles, attorney for Horizon Wind Energy, gave a brief overview of what has taken place. He said that this part, the public hearings, is the shortest part of a lengthy process that they go through in developing a site.
Horizon began in Logan County in the summer of 2005 by measuring wind and looking where it would be most effective to place turbines.
Public, state and federal government interest was high in developing renewable energy, such as wind energy.
They began making contact with the local agricultural community and began working with them and the township and county officials on possible infrastructure improvements.
They developed Twin Groves near Bloomington first. People were invited to come look at what was done there.
While these processes were taking place, the county adopted a wind farm ordinance, which was in context of the county comprehensive plan.
Horizon’s request is consistent with the county’s wind farm ordinance, agricultural zoning law and conditional use.
He noted that Tazewell County has approved special or conditional use of agricultural land for their portion of the Railsplitter Wind Farm.
It was noted during the testimony that it is residents of five or six places that would be within the proximity of the turbines’ “footprint” who are opposing the wind farm.
Dick Logan, country board chairman, said, “I represent 31,183 people of Logan County, not just one or two groups with special interests.”
He said that he does not have the time to sit in front of his computer all day and respond to e-mails. He said, “I’m available over 50 hours a week at my business,” Dick Logan Auto Care, 217-732-2323.
“I’ve never refused my entire time on the Logan County Board to talk to you (the public) on any side of any issue,” Logan said. “I will listen to you, I have listened to you. Not very many are opposed to this, but most of you are wanting this in Logan County. So don’t say I’m not available or turned you down or not listening, because all you had to do was call. Your personal call would have meant a lot to me.”
A straw vote indicated the wind farm’s request for conditional use of agriculture land for the production of electricity created by wind turbines would pass on Tuesday evening.
There were 10 voting yes, and two abstained: Chuck Ruben and John Stewart.
By Jan Youngquist
14 July 2008
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