Hartsburg, Ill. –
One member of Union Ridge Wind, which is opposed to a wind farm in northern Logan County, has asked to speak this evening before the Logan County Board takes an official vote on issuing Horizon Wind Energy a conditional-use permit to construct 29 wind turbines.
“I told him I’d give him five minutes,” said board chairman Dick Logan, who soaked in a lengthy discussion from both sides during last Thursday’s county board workshop session. “I don’t know if any of the attorneys are going to be there.
“I think it’s time we either vote it up or vote it down.”
The county took a straw vote in Thursday’s workshop session. Nine members voted to issue the permit, while finance committee chairman Chuck Ruben and assistant board chairman John Stewart abstained from voting due to conflicts of interest.
The same nine will be voting tonight. William Sahs, who is on leave due to a medical procedure on his knee, will be absent from tonight’s meeting.
Logan said there has been “a lot of action” over the past few days regarding the upcoming vote, with people either calling his office or coming in to his auto repair shop in Lincoln to discuss the matter.
Horizon this week launched its second mass-mailing campaign in the area, asking wind farm backers to attend tonight’s county board session as a show of support.
But Logan feels, at this point, everyone has had a chance to voice multiple sides of the issue.
If Rockford attorney Rick Porter, representing Union Ridge Wind, is on hand to speak again, Logan told the URW representative last week he could have the floor for five minutes.
“They still want a property value guarantee,” said Logan.
Porter, who said a property value guarantee “costs the county nothing, but buys a lot of harmony,” drew up a version for his clients before the Logan County Board of Appeals began its series of hearings.
The guarantee asks for an appraiser from each side to give a value on the property. If both appraisals are within 10 percent of each other, the value is accepted. If the appraisals are not within 10 percent, a third party will be hired and this person’s decision will be binding.
If a property would sell below the pre-determined value, Horizon would be obligated to make up the difference.
So far, no motion has been made to add the property value guarantee to the conditional-use permit. Logan said he will not bring the issue up at tonight’s meeting, but if a motion is made, it will be considered and voted on by the board.
“They’ve been real nice,” Logan said of his recent meetings with the Union Ridge Wind representatives. “I understand their concerns, but the banks aren’t doing real great today. They’re dealing with a lot of people foreclosing mortgages.”
After the zoning board of appeals ended its hearings earlier this month, Porter said he would more than likely appeal the decision if no property value guarantee is granted. If a guarantee is part of the agreement, Porter said it would probably be enough to ease his clients’ concerns.
Horizon does have a Neighbor Easement Agreement that it will offer to residents living in the vicinity of the wind farm. The document outlines an agreement in which Horizon will allow for payments to landowners living near the immediate vicinity of turbines, in exchange for “an easement, right and entitlement on, over, across and under owner’s property for any sound level (audible or otherwise) in excess of 50 decibels …”
The Illinois Pollution Control Board recommends that people not be consistently exposed to noise levels over 40 decibels. Since the turbines can generate in excess of this amount, the agreement will pay $1,000 annually to property owners for the next 30 years with a 2 percent annual increase in the payments.
The agreement also states that if a turbine casts a shadow over a property owner’s residence, due to the height of the turbines, Horizon may “undertake measures such as tree planting or installation of awnings, draperies or other window treatments necessary to mitigate the effects of the offending shadow.”
Horizon also is pledging to test television reception and make an attempt to correct weakened signals caused by the turbines.
“Correction measures may include … installation of television signal boosters serving the general area of the wind farm, installation of an antenna or signal booster or installation and payment for cable, dish TV or similar devices serving owner’s property.”
Horizon’s project manager Bill Whitlock said each property owner would likely see more than $40,000 over the life of the agreement.
“The owner agreement stays with the land,” said Whitlock. “If the owner moves, the agreement (will be passed on to the new owner).”
Porter said he would advise his clients not to sign the document, partially due to a confidentially clause prohibiting a signer against speaking about the terms of the easement agreement.
He also said the agreement gives Horizon the right to infringe on the residents’ properties.
Whitlock, whose company policy prohibits him from speaking on record during the voting process, said he would be available for an interview Wednesday afternoon to speak about the company’s upcoming plans if the board gives its approval.
During the zoning board of appeals hearings, Whitlock was asked if Horizon would be willing to grant a property value guarantee.
His answer was short and simple.
By Joshua Niziolkiewicz
15 July 2008
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