To the disapproval of the Urbana City Council, plans to install three wind turbines to be placed 1.5 miles southeast of Urbana are moving along.
Contract bidders wishing to lead construction on the project have until the recently extended deadline of Nov. 30 to submit their input.
“The city isn’t protesting the turbines, per se,” said Diane Marlin, Ward 7 council member.
“We just want to make sure (the University) is complying with regulations for wind turbines,” said Marlin.
Because the turbines fall so close to Urbana city limits, they fall into an Extraterritorial Jurisdictional area category.
State law gives municipalities the right to regulate wind energy devices within that area.
While the University hopes to have a bid recommendation and approval at the Dec. 17 Board of Trustees meeting, Urbana council members think it’s necessary for city staff to meet with University officials to discuss the possible violations.
According to the ordinance, the University would need to obtain a special use permit to construct the towers.
Marlin said there are a number of issues that need to be discussed in the Wind Energy Systems regulations in Urbana’s Zoning Ordinance, including maximum height, shadow flicker, sound level, electromagnetic interference, vibration and setbacks.
Disparity in opinion over how this procedure should run has arisen without legal precedence, as it has never been tested in courts.
With the proposal due date approaching quickly, city council members like Marlin are concerned that bidders will not have the information necessary to prepare a compliant proposal.
Also of concern is whether citizens of the surrounding area are being given a voice.
Urbana residents have noted during public commentary at council meetings that they feel the development would bring down the value of their property.
“The truth of the matter is that the University can put the turbines anywhere and it’ll catch wind and connect to the power grid,” said 25-year resident of Urbana Doug Wolfersberger at the Nov. 15 meeting.
“They own a lot of other land out there,” Marlin said.
“Those turbines can be relocated and hooked up any other place southwest of there.
If a special use permit were to be obtained, a public hearing would need to take place,” Marlin said.
So far, a meeting between staff and the University has not been planned, she said.
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