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University wind turbines cause concern for Urbana  

Credit:  Taylor Goldenstein, The Daily Illini, www.dailyillini.com 15 November 2010 ~~

Plans by the University to install three utility-sized wind turbines adjacent to the City of Urbana have elicited concern from Urbana City Council members, as well as community members.

At its regular meeting Monday, Diane Marlin, Ward 7, made a statement voicing her apprehension about the way the University is going about the project and requested that the University comply with Wind Energy System regulations in Urbana’s Zoning Ordinance.

“The wind project is quickly moving forward without involving the City of Urbana, and that is troubling,” Marlin said.

According to University project maps, the turbines fall within 1.5 miles of Urbana city limits, putting it into the category of extraterritorial jurisdictional area. State law allows municipalities to regulate wind energy devices within city limits as within the area surrounding the city.

At this point, certain requirements, such as the Urbana setback requirements of the zoning ordinance’s comprehensive plan, are not being met.

The turbines, which will stand up to 40 stories tall, will be located along Philo Road and will provide at least 1.5 megawatts of power exclusively for the University. Each will have three rotating blades and will be topped with flashing red lights.

In the statement, Marlin also requested that the University make copies of the zoning regulations available to all potential bidders for the project.

As it is, the request for proposals does not contain any reference to Urbana’s Wind Energy System regulations, Marlin said.

Community members who are residents of developments surrounding the site also voiced their concern at the meeting.

“One important issue about (the turbines) is that this development is taking place out in our area, and, believe it or not, very few people know about it,” said Doug Wolfersberger, Urbana resident.

Wolfersberger’s main concern, along with others in the Deerfield Trails Homeowners Association, is that the turbines will decrease property value and discourage future business and housing development.

Both Marlin and Wolfersberger made it clear they are not against this type of technology as a whole.

“I support alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, as a commitment to the future,” Marlin said. “However, I’m also committed to the present, where it’s our responsibility to protect the interests of Urbana’s residents and businesses and to mitigate the impact of these enormous structures.”

City staff will discuss the issue Tuesday.

In addition to the agenda, representatives from Selbert Perkins Design spoke about a signage improvement project that is estimated to cost between $650,000 and $1.1 million.

In new business, the Build Urbana Tax Rebate Program, incepted in 2001 and due to expire Dec. 1, which staff has recommended extending another year, was voted to be brought to the Dec. 6 council meeting for approval.

However, a decision would have to be made conditional on park district approval following their meeting that will take place Dec. 14.

An election will take place April 2011 to fill the vacant seat emptied by David Gehrig, former Ward 2, who resigned before half his term was up. Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing is required to appoint someone to fill the position until May.

Election packets can be picked up between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. from the city clerk’s office. The final deadline for this application is scheduled for next week.

In addition to the approval of six ordinances, Scott Bennett, three-year resident of Urbana, was officially appointed to the Urbana Free Library Board for a term expiring June 30, 2012. Tom Costello, Grace Mitchell and Ivy Williams were also reappointed to the Civilian Police Review Board.

Source:  Taylor Goldenstein, The Daily Illini, www.dailyillini.com 15 November 2010

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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