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Logan County wind farm approved, but opponents vow fight  

Horizon Wind Energy has permission to build a wind farm in northern Logan County, and opponents have pledged to fight it in court.

The Rail Splitter Wind Farm would involve 29 wind turbine towers, each standing 389 feet tall, near Emden. Another 38 towers will be across the county line in Tazewell County, which has already approved the project.

News of the approval pleased Joel Smiley, director of the Lincoln-Logan Development Partnership, who sees the project as an economic boon to the county.

“It will mean approximately 200 construction jobs, and once the farm is in place, it will mean another 10 to 15 good-paying jobs,” Smiley said.

Opponents fear, however, that their property values will suffer.

The Logan County Board voted as expected Tuesday night on a conditional-use permit for the towers. The vote was unanimous, except for John Stewart and Chuck Ruben, who abstained due to potential conflicts of interest, and William Sahs, who was absent for medical reasons.

The Union Ridge Wind Group, a residents group opposed to the wind farm, has hired Rockford attorney Rick Porter to file a formal protest.

“We don’t believe the conditional-use permit is legal in this situation,” Porter said. “Our contention is it has been zoned improperly. It should be zoned for industrial use if wind turbines are built.”

Porter said his clients would like a guarantee their property values won’t decline as a result of the wind farm.

Board member Pat O’Neill said he would consider such a request, but it did not gain support from the board Tuesday.

Frank Miles, an attorney for Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy, said he doesn’t anticipate problems once the turbines are built. He cited the Twin Groves Wind Farm near Ellsworth as an example.

“Wind is a natural resource, and we have done a lot of research to ease the concerns of the neighbors,” Miles said. “We’ve held meetings in an effort to provide information about the wind farms and have offered tours of the Twin Groves operation in McLean County for anyone who has any questions about anything relating to the farms.”

But Porter, who represents nine owners near the Emden area, said he expects the decision to be overturned.

“We intend to file an appeal, and we believe the courts will see that there were mistakes made in the zoning process,” Porter said. “More than anything, though, our clients wanted some sort of guarantee that the property values would not suffer, and the board wasn’t willing to include that as a condition of the permit.”

The permit allows using land zoned for agricultural use for a wind farm.

Previously, the Zoning Board of Appeals held seven public hearings on the wind farm proposal, and county board members listened to public comments during the June board meeting.

By Kevin Barlow

Lee News Service Writer

Herald & Review

18 July 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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