URBANA – Some city council members on Monday night said they were frustrated that a University of Illinois wind turbine project is moving along without consulting city officials or adhering to a new zoning ordinance.
Diane Marlin, D-7, said the UI’s plans for up to three 400-foot wind turbines in unincorporated southeast Urbana do not comply with city code regulating such developments.
“The wind turbine project is quickly moving forward without involving the city of Urbana, and that’s very troubling,” Marlin said, reading a prepared statement before the council.
“I’m just so taken aback by this whole situation,” said Heather Stevenson, R-6.
Although the proposed wind farm is not within the Urbana city limits, it is within 1 1/2 miles of the southern boundary. Under state law, a city is allowed to enforce its wind turbine zoning regulations within that radius.
City Planner Libby Tyler said whether or not the UI, as a state agency, must comply with municipal zoning standards is not clear, and has not been fully tested in the courts.
“If you ask our attorney, yes,” she said. “If you ask a university attorney, no.”
Mayor Laurel Prussing said city staff will talk to determine an appropriate way to move forward.
“It’s definitely a jurisdictional concern,” Tyler said.
The UI on Oct. 27 issued a request for project proposals from contractors it would consider the lead the construction of the wind farm, and those proposals are due Nov. 23. The university’s board of trustees could approve a plan at its December meeting.
One of the problems, Marlin said, is that the packet the UI issued describing the scope of the project did not reference the city’s new wind turbine zoning ordinance. That ordinance regulates things like the maximum height of the towers, how far they must be from residences, noise levels and controls on the turbines’ shadows.
The city must “mitigate the impact of these enormous, industrial-sized structures that will appear on our southern boundary,” Marlin said.
Doug Wolfersberger, representing the Deerfield Trails Homeowners’ Association, said he feels the UI project would hurt his neighborhood.
“We saw nothing or any kind of offer from the university that says, ‘Hey this is good for us, and we’ll make it good for Urbana,'” Wolfersberger said.
The residents say they do not want 40-story towers in their backyards.
“That lowers our property values, and that’s why we’re here tonight,” Wolfersberger said.
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