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Woodford takes 2 votes on Minonk wind farm

EUREKA – Construction of the Minonk wind farm is proceeding as scheduled. But the Woodford County Board is giving the project’s developer a little less reassurance than it prefers.

By a 7-6 vote Tuesday night, the board voted down an amendment that would codify Minonk Wind LLC’s exemption from wind-farm restrictions enacted in February. Later, the board voted 12-1 to adopt a resolution that incorporated the amendment text.

“The practical effect is that it’s a little bit firmer,” Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger said about the amendment as compared to the resolution.

Officials of Gamesa Technology Corp., which is developing and constructing the wind farm, were disappointed with the board’s decision.

“I think there probably was a little bit of confusion here as to why the amendment is necessary,” said Jiddu Tapia, the chief development officer of Gamesa North America. “We’re going to have to do some work on that.”

Voting no on the amendment were board members Russell Cotton, Tom Evans, Stan Glazier, Doug Huser, Duane Kingdon, Barry Logan and Andrew Martin. Colleagues Don Cremeens, Tom Janssen, Tom Karr, John Krug, Shannon Rocke and Larry Whitaker voted yes.

Terry Pille, a board member whose family has a financial interest in the Minonk project, abstained. Mike Hinrichsen was absent. The vote was similar to the 8-7 approval the board gave in February to a zoning-ordinance revision that increased the distance turbines needed to be located from residences that aren’t part of a wind farm.

The board had stated the Minonk project, which it approved in 2010, was not bound by the new distance requirements and other approved revisions. Gamesa wanted more legal teeth in that pledge, particularly after it agreed to sell the Minonk project to a partnership it will form with Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., a Canadian company.

“There is nothing in our contract that says we have to provide an amendment to a zoning ordinance so they can sell to another company,” Kingdon said. “This is asking more than what our contract requires us to give.”

Tapia said construction is under way on the 100-turbine site located east-southeast of Minonk.

The board’s conservation, planning and zoning committee had approved the amendment. The five-member Woodford County Zoning Board of Appeals appeared to reject the amendment by approving it only 3-2; a 4-1 vote was believed necessary. But Minger said state law requires only a simple majority for passage.