The Logan County Zoning Board of Appeals came up with a two-to-two tie vote on a conditional use permit for the Meridien wind farm project on Wednesday.
As a result, the project will go before the Logan County Board on July 16 and 21 with just five conditional recommendations from the ZBA.
The proposed wind farm is the undertaking of ReLight US Corp. (the Italian parent company of petitioner Meridien LLC) and would consist of 81 turbines, each with a maximum height of 492 feet, rated at roughly two megawatts apiece, situated on a stretch of land in Mount Pulaski, Elkhart and Broadwell.
The meeting was the second of two public hearings held at the Mount Pulaski High School this month to evaluate the 23,000-acre project.
The four-member ZBA panel had a list of 38 possible conditions for the project before them Wednesday night. The list was compiled by County Zoning Officer Will D’Andrea and included things such as the posting of financial resources, local emergency service provider reviews and other areas of compliance within the authority of the county.
Prior to the main vote, the ZBA unanimously approved the recommendation of five conditions for the project with regard to shadow flicker mitigation, cooperation with farmers when it comes to aerial application of agricultural chemicals, a five-year sunset clause on the permit (meaning that the company would have to reapply if the project was not underway within five years), payments to non-participating landowners and the transfer of all conditions to any future owners of the farm.
Any further conditions imposed on the project would be at the discretion of the County Board members prior to their approval vote.
During the public participation portion of the meeting Wednesday, the ZBA first heard from Lisa Leonard, of Mount Pulaski, who explained that she had spoken with residents living within the footprint of the Railsplitter wind farm in northern Logan & southern Tazewell counties over Memorial Day weekend. “I made that drive and took the time to ask…” Leonard said. She explained that a lot of the people she spoke to were hesitant to share their experiences and that some were contractually bound to not speak negatively about the wind farm.
“Most people are afraid to say the wrong thing to the wrong person,” she said, citing similar concerns there to the ones voiced in recent hearings about the community being divided over the issue. Leonard also summarized her concerns about property values, the welfare of children living in the area and the company’s reputation.
Other residents brought up concerns with the company’s decommissioning plans, shadow-flicker (which are flashes of light from the turbine blades momentarily blocking the sun under certain conditions), ReLight’s lack of consistent local representation and various studies that they felt should be conducted before the project is allowed to move forward.
Two ReLight representatives were on-hand to answer questions and to elaborate on what conditions their board had approved including approximately $14.5 million in donations to severallocal organizations over the 25-year life of the project beginning when the farm becomes operational.
On the final vote, ZBA members Doug Thompson and Brett Farmer voted “yes,” while Judi Graff and Rick Sheley voted “no.”