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El Paso wind farm vote delayed again

Woodford board puts off decision until Aug. 19 on lack of road agreement

The Woodford County Board once again postponed voting for 30 days on the El Paso wind farm, deciding instead to take up the development at its Aug. 19 meeting.

Board members reached the decision by a 10-5 vote Tuesday night after lawyers representing the project’s developer, Navitas Energy, and the township road commissioners affected by the wind farm said they were close to striking a deal. By delaying the vote on the 40-turbine wind farm, just as they did at their May meeting, some board members said they hoped both sides would return with a settlement.

“Let’s get a signed agreement, come back in 30 days and work on this,” Stanley Glazier told his fellow board members before the vote, adding he thought the board should not cast its ballot until such an agreement is reached.

The county’s Zoning Board of Appeals endorsed the 3,000-acre wind farm in August 2007 under the condition that Navitas Energy and the road commissioners from El Paso, Palestine and Greene townships reconcile their difference over the commissioners’ request for a $1.4 million payment over the life of the development.

Since the ZBA approval, the negotiations stalled until last week, when both sides began meeting in earnest.

Paul Lewis, a Peoria attorney who represents the Minneapolis-based renewable energy company, said at first the rift between his client and the road commissioners was as wide as the Grand Canyon.

“Now,” he told the County Board during its public comment portion, “I would say it is about the size of a creek. . . . We are not quite there but we are very close.”

Bloomington attorney Robert Lenz, who represents the two commissioners from El Paso and Palestine townships, concurred with Lewis, saying, “We should be able to sign an agreement in a few days.”

Calls seeking comment from Sheryl Kuzma, an Ottawa attorney representing road commissioner Bruce von Nordhiem from Greene Township, were not returned Tuesday.

Those familiar with the negotiations said both sides met for several hours Thursday evening in what was the first gathering between the two in more than a year. Since then, talks have been ongoing among the lawyers and reportedly both sides have moved toward the middle.

Any headway made in the wind development, however, did not deter members of the public from speaking out against it. Critics of the project again laid out a litany of complaints, saying the 400-foot towers would change their way of life for the worse.

Steve Dressler of El Paso asked the board to tell him, by a show of hands, who would guarantee his safety from the possibility of falling wind turbines or promise the development would not decreases his property’s value. No one raised his hand.

By Frank Radosevich II

Peoria Journal Star

16 July 2008