In a 6-6 vote Wednesday, the Logan County Board rejected a conditional use permit that would have brought a 7,600-acre wind farm to a stretch of land between Mount Pulaski, Broadwell, Lake Fork and Elkhart.
The petition came before the Board earlier this month with no recommendation from the Zoning Board of Appeals after they too came to a split-vote on the project on Jan. 8.
Throughout the process, both boards heard a great deal of opposition from people living within the proposed quarter-mile footprint of the 80-turbine wind farm.
While the owners of nearly 100 parcels of land signed agreements with the company to participate in the project, many of their neighbors cited concerns over the potential health risks associated with infrasound and shadow-flicker, as well as the impact on property values and aesthetics.
One particular point of contention offered up by the opposition was that of a ruling out of Brown County, Wisconsin in October which declared an eight-turbine wind farm there to be a human health hazard based on a study of low-frequency sound in nearby homes.
Prior to the vote Wednesday, the Logan County Board heard several comments from the public and from Bob Paladino, an attorney representing ReLight US Corp., the Italy-based parent company of Delaware-based petitioner Meridien, LLC.
Paladino claimed that one of the primary studies cited in the Brown County decision, the “James Study,” has never been peer-reviewed, cannot be obtained and that it most likely does not exist.
“I think the most important thing we have to understand about the references to the Brown County decision is it was a bad decision,” Paladino said, adding that it’s not “sustainable by science.”
He acknowledged that ReLight “may not have done a very good job at communicating with the public,” but that they came into the community with good intentions to bring a project that “Logan County can and will be proud of.”
Several residents of the Mount Pulaski area then took to the microphone to voice their concerns and opposition.
At one point, Cheryl Martin, a Certified Public Accountant from Mount Pulaski, brought forward the results of a background check she conducted on Paladino.
She went down the list of companies on his resume, which he provided to the Board at the previous meeting.
“A lot of the things were true,” she began. “Jasper Energy is a company formed by Mr. Paladino. However, the website no longer has a telephone number that’s valid and their registration with the State of Delaware is no longer valid.”
She said that he was president of another company that filed for bankruptcy during his tenure. She went on to discuss the finances of ReLight Corp., claiming they have a total capitalization of $750,000.
“I guess my question, as a CPA, is, according to Mr. Paladino this is a 400 million dollar project, how does a company with $750,000 in capitalization get the financing or investors to do a 400 million dollar project?” she asked.
“I have concerns that the project gets started and can’t be completed because of financial restrictions.”
She concluded, “You have to look at the representations being made and the promises made to these citizens who are putting their livelihood and their homes in risk in this farm and know why these big concerns are there.”
Paladino began his rebuttal by saying, “This isn’t supposed to be about me, but since my name was brought up I’ll address it.” He said that Jasper Energy, LLC. is no longer incorporated in Delaware because, like him, it’s moving to Florida.
He went on to cite several studies that the company has provided for the Board and told members that they have to ignore the anecdotal claims against wind turbines.
“They’re voodoo. They’re nothing. You cannot make public policy decisions on these. Look at the science,” he said.
Before the vote, Board members Chuck Ruben, Pat O’Neill, and David Hepler voiced their support of the project.
Chairman Hepler said he thought it would be a “tremendous benefit” to the county.
Ultimately, the amended motion to approve the conditional use of the land failed for lack of a majority vote.
As the room was clearing out, several residents of Mount Pulaski stopped at the railing that separated them from the board and thanked the members who voted against the project.
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