LINCOLN – At the January 7th monthly meeting of the Logan County Planning and Zoning Committee, Zoning Officer Will D’Andrea reminded the committee members that the Zoning Board of Appeals would have their recommendation concerning the Relight Wind Farm conditional use request on the 8th, and that the board could then vote on it this month.
The ZBA only provides a recommendation and any recommended conditions on zoning requests; the county board can choose to agree or disagree with those recommendations in their deliberations.
Committee member Kevin Bateman shared a few concerns he has heard from citizens repeatedly over this matter. One of these concerns is that should Relight fall out of business the towers would be taken down at the county’s expense. D’Andrea said that Relight is required to post bonds that would be used for decommissioning in the future before building anything, so the money would already be set aside for that purpose.
On the subject of decommissioning, Bateman asked if the land could be restored back to its previous state after the towers came down. D’Andrea said that could be set as a condition for the permit, which would be similar to the Railsplitter Wind Farm in previous years.
Another concern Bateman shared is the system of roads in the area. Rohlfs said that any roadwork done by Relight has to be approved by the county highway engineer.
Bateman also asked about the tax money that would go to school districts in the area and whether or not the tax increase would decrease state aid received by the schools. Tom Martin, a citizen from Mt Pulaski, was present at the meeting and answered Bateman’s question, saying that to his knowledge, state aid would decrease, but he was unsure of the amount.
“The school system does have the most to gain here,” said Martin.
Following Bateman’s questions, two other guests from Mount Pulaski addressed the committee. Corey Leonard added to the discussion on property taxes, saying that tax rates on wind farms in the state could go down after the first year, due to the current rates expiring in 2016.
Leonard also said that the Railsplitter project, which has been compared to the proposed Relight project, has a smaller number of shorter and less powerful towers within a larger, yet less populated area. “The number of citizens that would be impacted is vastly different than the first project,” said Leonard.
Rohlfs said he recently visited the Railsplitter wind farm, and from his perspective, the proposed Relight farm would be much more overwhelming in scope.
Gena Monicahl Ruhl, another citizen of Mount Pulaski, addressed the committee on the health concerns that could come up in the future. Ruhl said that there are people in other areas in Illinois and in other states who have become sick after the towers are turned on, eventually forcing some of them to leave their homes. Ruhl also said that some of these people become healthy again after leaving the area.
In addition to the health problems, Ruhl said that the research on the health effects of living near wind towers is constantly being updated, and it is only now that we are learning how people can be affected. “There are too many unknowns,” said Ruhl.
Committee members present for the meeting included Chairman Pat O’Neill, Vice-chairman Emily Davenport, Kevin Bateman, David Blankenship, Gene Rohlfs and Board Chairman, David Hepler.
The county workshop meeting on the 15th will see a continuation of this ongoing discussion, and the board is expected to vote on the potential project this month.
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