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Minonk wind farm investors want assurances from county

EUREKA – Construction on the Minonk Wind Farm is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks, but there is one more thing developers want done as soon as possible.

Attorneys for the major investors want reassurance that recent changes in the county’s zoning ordinance concerning longer setbacks, more restrictions on shadow flicker and other factors will not affect the Minonk project. And they want it in writing, as a text amendment to the county ordinance.

When approached about the guarantee requested by wind farm developer Gamesa, the Woodford County Board was ready to vote on a resolution at its March 22 meeting clarifying the fact that the Minonk Wind Farm would fall under the ordinance in effect prior to Feb. 27 changes. Special use permits for the wind farm were issued prior to those changes.

But the vote never came as Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger said the attorneys for the wind farm investors instead wanted the text ordinance amendment.

But in order to create a text ordinance amendment, the matter had to be sent back to the board’s Conservation, Planning and Zoning committee where such changes originate. The CP&Z committee held a special meeting March 28 to address the issue.

Committee Chairman Doug Huser said he would support a resolution, but not a text amendment.

“We’re setting a precedent if we do this,” Huser said. “No other company is in the zoning ordinance. This whole thing is a mess… I want to know what the other options are.”

But Minger warned such inaction could provoke a lawsuit, and wind farm Manager Duane Enger said delays could cause investors to re-think the project.

“We are on a timeline,” Enger said, noting construction must be complete by Dec. 31. He said the company is willing to pay for any special meetings held to expedite the process.

Committee member Shannon Rocke supported approval of the text amendment.

“This makes our partner more comfortable,” Rocke said.

Committee member Don Cremeens agreed.

“We need to do, for lack of a better term, what we said we were gonna do and keep this project moving,” Cremeens said.

Huser remained adamantly opposed to the text amendment, saying it was being pushed through too quickly.

“It’s the same rules for everybody,” Huser said, “whether it’s a dollar a year lemonade stand or a multi-million dollar project.”

Huser also said he had other issues with Gamesa complying with the special use permits issued, but he would address them at another meeting after Minger had a chance to review his concerns and offer legal advice.

After a complicated discussion, the committee finally voted on the issue, approving it 3-2, with Rocke, Cremeens and Duane Kingdon voting yes and Huser and Tom Evans voting no.

The text amendment now moves to the Zoning Board of Appeals for review and recommendation to the full county board. The ZBA will likely hold a special meeting to discuss the matter rather than waiting until its regular meeting at the end of April.