DIXON – The Lee County Zoning Board is likely to make a recommendation today on a first-of-its-kind project to decommission and rebuild the Mendota Hills Wind Farm.
The board continued its discussion on the plan Monday on the wind farm’s proposal to uproot its 63 turbines and replace them with 27 to 34 larger, more efficient models. It’s the fourth time members have gathered to discuss the topic in meetings that have spanned 8 hours over the past few weeks.
The last two sessions have consisted of compiling testimony and evidence for the scope of the project as well as the potential impact it could have on surrounding property owners.
Concerns about the project include fears that bigger turbines will cause an increase in noise levels, and that a few of the structures will be too close to Bresson Airport in Compton and could present a safety risk.
Weighing against the those concerns are benefits such as a boost in county revenue and increased employment during the project’s decommissioning and construction phases, which could begin as early as May or June.
If approved, the project could result in an extra $550,000 in county real estate taxes and provide a bump to local school districts and townships.
Board Chairman Bruce Forster said the existing wind farm has paid more than $5.5 million in local taxes since 2003.
However, board member Mike Pratt said their decision shouldn’t be dictated by dollar signs.
“We should be basing our decision on other factors,” he said.
The proposal would require the wind farm, owned by Dallas-based Leeward Renewable Energy, to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and make sure that none of its turbines create a hazard or obstruction to any existing airport, restricted landing area or heliport.
The company would also need to perform an additional noise pollution study and enter into a road-use-and-repair agreement before moving forward.
Board member Glen Hughes said that while noise could increase for some property owners, it could lessen for others because of the reduction in total turbines.
While the noise increases for participating property owners – those who have a contract with the turbine owners – could exceed standards set by the Illinois Pollution Control Board, noise increases for non-participating property owners would have to abide by state standards, board member Craig Buhrow said.
Once reached, the zoning board’s recommendation will go to the Lee County Board for final approval.
The Lee County Zoning Board meets at 7 p.m. today in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 309 S. Galena Ave.
Go to leecountyil.com for an agenda or more information.