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Zoning board votes 4-3 to send wind farm permit to county board

URBANA – A proposed 30-turbine wind farm in northeastern Champaign County won approval Thursday night from the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals.

The 4-3 vote was a reversal for the ZBA, which two weeks ago voted to deny a special use permit for the California Ridge development, based primarily over concerns about noise pollution and a reclamation agreement in the event that the completed development is abandoned.

The wind farm proposal now goes to the Champaign County Board, which must vote on the special use permit request by Nov. 19. The board is scheduled to meet Nov. 17. Four county board members – Republicans Jon Schroeder, Alan Nudo and Gary Maxwell and Democrat Pattsi Petrie – attended Thursday’s lengthy meeting.

If approved by the county board, California Ridge – located north of Royal and south of Gifford – would be the first wind farm built in Champaign County.

The 30 turbines are part of a larger development by Invenergy Wind North America LLC that includes about 100 wind turbines in northwestern Vermilion County. Work on that portion of the project has already begun.

The reclamation agreement, according to Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer, protects Champaign County from any financial responsibility for the decommissioning of the project.

“Champaign County has gotten the best, most complete, most protective reclamation agreement that any county has gotten in Illinois,” said Blazer.

Regarding noise impacts, Invenergy has pledged to follow Illinois Pollution Control Board standards for noise pollution on any Class A (residential) land adjacent to the wind farm.