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Walnut Ridge hearing continues

PRINCETON – The Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals recessed Thursday’s hearing on requested Walnut Ridge conditional use permit extensions to allow time for the developers to consult legal counsel.

On Friday, Zoning Officer Kris Donarski said Thursday’s hearing was recessed until 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Bureau County Courthouse in Princeton.

About 90 people attended Thursday’s hearing, which lasted about 30 minutes, Donarski said.

Representing the Walnut Ridge wind farm project at Thursday’s hearing was project developer Bill French. Objectors to the requested extensions had legal representation with them, Donarski said.

The Walnut Ridge conditional use permits and associated variations were granted to the Midwest Wind Energy developers in August 2008, November 2008 and December 2008 for 150 turbines, two staging areas, two substations and 99 transmission line support structures. The permits and variations expire after three years.

The conditional use permits are for the use of the land itself, and the Walnut Ridge developers would need to come into her office for building permits for the actual construction work, Donarski said.

Whenever the Walnut Ridge extension hearing is completed, the Zoning Board of Appeals will make a recommendation to the full Bureau County Board for consideration. It is the county board which will make the decision whether to deny or grant the extension request, Donarski said.

At its Feb. 8 meeting, the county board heard a written statement from a group of Walnut area residents opposing the Walnut Ridge extension requests. In its statement, the group asked the county board to deny any extension requests for Walnut Ridge until the county board could do further study of existing data on what the group called “the very real and adverse affects” of wind turbines on the health, safety and enjoyment of property of those people living among turbines. The Walnut group also recommended a one-year moratorium on wind farm construction to study the negative economic effect of wind farms to the county.

The proposed Walnut Ridge wind farm would be spread over 15,000 acres in Ohio, Walnut, Manlius, Bureau and Greenville townships.