Pontiac, Ill. – In front of a packed Pontiac Township High School auditorium, filled with a divided house of people eagerly waiting for a resolution, the Livingston County Board voted 13-9 to deny Invenergy’s wind farm application Thursday night. Approximately half of the auditorium burst into cheers upon hearing the results of the vote.
Board Member Bill Flott, who also chairs the Agriculture and Zoning Committee, offered the motion to, as at the June County Board meeting, once again vote for the acceptance or rejection of the Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation to deny Invenergy’s application.
Before the motion was put to a vote, County Board Chairman Marty Fannin gave each of the board members a chance to comment on the subject at hand.
Board Member Daryl Holt announced that he would vote “yes” on the motion, saying that while there were significant economic opportunities in the Pleasant Ridge application, he was unconvinced that Invenergy had provided enough evidence to ensure that the health of everyone in the wind farm’s “footprint” would be entirely unaffected.
Another board member, Mike Ingles, also announced which way he planned to vote – though his would be a “no.” He noted that his decision was purely from a zoning and coding standpoint.
“County Board is to vote based upon the findings and facts at the Zoning Board meetings,” he said. “I think there are a lot things said at those meetings that would go outside the facts.
“The point is that this is a zoning issue. One basic premise of zoning decisions is special uses are to be granted unless the applicant can’t meet the ordinance. It’s not a referendum … this vote should follow the law: state statutes and our ordinance.”
He added that he wouldn’t get into the “yes and no” of the last meeting “because it was confusing, I guess,” – likely a reference to the mistaken vote of Fannin.
Fannin himself acknowledged his error from the June meeting, which, given the tie at that meeting’s vote on the ZBA’s recommendation, would have resolved the matter a month ago.
“I think everybody’s aware that I made a mistake last month, and I voted a way I didn’t intend to vote,” he said. “As many as I times as I told everyone what their vote meant … I made a mistake.”
Wasting little time, Fannin then put the matter to a vote. Board members Kathy Arbogast, Justin Goembel, James Carley, Mark Runyon, Vicki Allen, Stan Weber, Kelly Cochran Cohlman, Tim Shafer, Carolyn Gerwin, Flott, Holt and Fannin voted to accept the ZBA’s recommendation to deny the Pleasant Ridge Wind Energy Project.
Members Jason Bunting, David Heath, Ronald Kestner, Bill Peterson, Joe Steichen, Jack Vietti, Robert Weller, Robert Young and Ingles voted to reject the recommendation. Members William Mays and John Yoder were absent.
Approximately half of the people seated in the auditorium stood and cheered after Fannin announced the motion had passed. Slowly, people began to trickle out of the auditorium as the Board returned to the rest of its agenda.
Several stayed, however, to either thank the board or voice their disapproval during the public comment session at the end of the meeting.
After the decision, Invenergy sent out a press release regarding the decision.
“We are disappointed by tonight’s vote,” the release said. “It is unfortunate the expert evidence from the board’s witnesses and ours was ignored and we are looking at all of our options.
“Thank you to all of the families and residents who support the project and have voiced that support during more than 35 public meetings on Pleasant Ridge. We share their disappointment.
“The Pleasant Ridge Wind Energy Project would create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs in Livingston County and generate millions of dollars annually in local tax revenue – critical at this time for local schools. None of this will be realized, however, because of the decision tonight.”
The “options” in the press release may reference a 90-day window for Invenergy to appeal the Board’s decision.