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Livingston County wind farm gets green light

Livingston County landowners within proximity to the Streator Deer Run Wind Farm project will not receive a property tax guarantee.

The Livingston County Board approved a special use permit request for the project Wednesday by a vote of 16-4 with four board members abstaining.

The permit allows for the construction of 164 wind turbines in Sunbury, Esmen and Newtown townships in northeastern Livingston County around Manville and Blackstone – 10 miles southeast of Streator.

Eight public hearings were conducted at Country Mansion in Dwight to discuss special use conditions for the wind project. Lawyers representing Heartland Wind Farms, Livingston County and residents argued whether property value depreciates within proximity of wind farm projects.

After the eight hearings, the Livingston County Zoning Board recommended a property sales protection plan. This plan required Heartland to compensate the owners of residential properties within 0.75 miles of a turbine or within 0.75 miles of the perimeter of the project, for any loss in property value caused at the time the property is sold. The recommendation allowed conditions of the plan to be approved by the county.

The county board did not include this request in its approval.

“I feel like they just made a mockery of the public hearing idea,”said Judy Campbell, county board member who lives near Manville and the proposed project. “We spent eight days hearing testimony and evidence for what? The county board did not refer to the special recommendations. They didn’t vote for it or against it, or discuss it. They ignored it.”

Instead, a motion was made to approve the wind farm project with special conditions from the zoning administration office.

“We wanted to keep close to the special use application of the previous wind farm project,” said Livingston County Board Chairman Bill Fairfield. “The first time around, we didn’t feel the county should be involved in that. If landowners want a property value guarantee, the landowners and the applicant can work out an agreement amongst themselves.”

Within the special use permit, there is a condition to deconstruct the wind turbines if and when they must come down. The condition calls for Heartland to give the county $40,000. There is also a condition calling for $40,000 for each turbine in lieu of sales tax savings.