Electricity-generating wind towers soon may dot the landscape of northeastern Livingston County, now that the County Board has approved the Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm.
By a 17-4 vote with three abstentions, board the 155-turbine project proposed by Spanish wind farm developer Iberdrola Renewables. It will be built on sites scattered across 15,000 acres between Saunemin and Odell.
“We are excited about the strong support we have received,” Iberdrola project developer Jesper Michaelsen said after the vote. “This will be a very good project for the participants and for the county.”
Michaelsen said Iberdrola plans to begin constructing foundations and roads this fall. Turbines will arrive next year.
Supporters of the project have said the wind farm would be a financial boon for farmers who will rent space for the turbines and taxing bodies that collect property taxes. Dissenters have said the turbines will block other economic development around them and could reduce property values.
“If wind farms are denied in Livingston County, I know exactly how much additional money fire districts, libraries and particularly school districts are going to get: zero,” Livingston County Chairman Bill Flott said.
Two of the biggest concerns for board members were: the lack of property value guarantees for landowners adjacent to the turbine sites; and whether the project will produce all the promised property tax revenue.
Iberdrola gave the board a letter Thursday in response to those concerns.
No property value guarantee for neighboring landowners was attached to the project. If, however, the county attaches such a guarantee to a future addition to the wind farm, Iberdrola agreed that it would be applied to neighbors of the original wind farm.
The company may build Streator Cayuga Ridge North Wind Farm, which would add about 300 turbines if it is built. That project would expand west of Interstate 55 and north into LaSalle County.
Iberdrola also committed to the current wind farm assessment as defined by Illinois law, even if later assessments reduce the taxable value. It promised to pay the increases if the assessments go up.
The letter cleared up concerns for some board members while raising more concerns for others.
“I’ve been on both sides of this being totally opposed and totally for it, but somewhere in the middle most of time,” board member Bill Fairfield said. “I believe that this addresses the two biggest concerns that I had.”
“I find it a positive move, but by no means totally satisfying to have a one-page letter thrown on our desk the night we are to vote on this,” board member Carolyn Gerwin said. “I just find (these issues) extremely important to the people of this county now and in the future.”
“This could have been done months ago,” she said.
The application for the project was submitted in June 2007, starting a months-long series of hearings.
The 28 conditions attached to the permit range from protecting television reception to creating a noise complaint resolution process to paying money to fire protection districts for training and special equipment.
By Tony Sapochetti
17 July 2008
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