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Public opposition to proposed area wind farm addresses board

BLOOMINGTON – Members of the public concerned about a proposed wind farm near Lexington, Colfax and Chenoa got an opportunity to address the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday.

The board is hearing a request by Horizon Wind Energy LLC for a special-use permit to build the Bright Stalk Wind Farm on about 37,800 acres in Lexington, Lawndale, Chenoa and Yates townships.

But some residents think adding a 223-turbine wind farm in close proximity to the existing Twin Groves Wind Farm could saturate the county and hurt agriculture.

“I am concerned with the amount of farmland covered currently with wind turbines and the percentage of tillable farmland that’s being developed,” said Amy Winterland of Colfax.

Kim Schertz, a frequent critic of wind farms, expanded on Winterland’s concerns.

“They did not consider the cumulative effect of having three wind farms literally stacked upon each other and how it will hamper the production of crops,” she said.

Julie Mosier of Heyworth questioned Horizon’s assertion that less than two acres of farmland per turbine will be lost.

“Any of the land that’s disturbed during construction is no longer very productive,” said Mosier, whose husband is a cash-rent farmer who works parcels in both the Twin Groves and Bright Stalk acreage.

She also disputed Horizon’s claim that the wind farm benefits cash-renters.

“I can’t say that I’ve seen any of that benefit,” she said. “It has not caused any of the rents to go down, and the (reimbursement for) crop damage is paid to the landowner and it’s the landowner’s choice to pay the farmer.”

Mosier testified that wind farm construction poses a financial burden on cash-renters.

“They don’t tell you, ‘On this day we’re going to construct a tower so please don’t plant in this area,’” she said. “If they destroy you’re crop, you’ll lose your income because you still have to pay the cash-rent to the landowner.”

William Wilkerson, who lives on a 1.3-acre property southeast of Chenoa, said he feels the wind farm would “turn my little world upside down.”

“I’ve got a little house out there. It may not mean nothing to anybody else, but it does to me,” he said. “It’s going to take away from my peace and quiet and serenity.”

Speaking in support of the project, Lee Klintworth of the Octavia Fire District said an additional $100,000 in annual taxes would pay for replacement of an outdated fire station.

“I see signs along the road, ‘We don’t want hog farms; we don’t want landfills; we don’t want plants,’” said Klintworth. “But I don’t see signs that we want better schools or better fire and ambulance services or better roads.”

But Mosier questioned the need to build the wind farm now.

“I wish we knew 10 years down the road if this was really the best thing,” she said. “What do we do in 30 years or 20 years? Am I supposed to look at these things when they start rusting and there isn’t money to take them down?

“What’s so wrong with waiting 10 years down the road? If it’s a good an opportunity now, I think it will be just as good an opportunity 10 years from now.”

The hearing will resume at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Room 400 of the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.