BLOOMINGTON – Supporters and opponents of a new McLean County wind farm policy faced off at a hearing Tuesday.
The county’s Board of Zoning Appeals heard testimony from 15 supporters and seven objectors to the policy, which officials said cements provisions, including decommissioning, height and noise requirements, that spelled out individually in previous wind farm permits.
More testimony will be heard at the ZBA’s Nov. 1 meeting. Officials hope to pass the policy before two companies, EDP Renewables and Invenergy, file county paperwork for additional wind farm construction in northeast McLean County.
Both companies sent representatives to speak in favor of the policy, and several local laborers also spoke for it.
“I’ve worked on four of these wind projects, and they’re great jobs,” said laborer Ronnie Paul of Bloomington. “These create a lot of tax revenue for the schools. They fund future projects every year.”
Andrew Downey, a Streator resident and farmer in Invenergy’s Grand Ridge Wind Farm, said the five turbines on his property have “benefited my family in terms of tuition payments and to keep my farm in the family.”
Loren Poppe of Colfax said the region would be wise to diversify its energy production, given the upcoming closure of Clinton’s nuclear power plant.
Tim Jolly, a farmer who lives in the proposed northeast McLean County project area, said he’s skeptical about the provision for decommissioning turbines after their useful lives.
“I hope some of the urban residents can think about and appreciate those of us who live in the country and are directly affected by this,” said Julie Cotter of Lexington. “Who wants to buy a piece of property out in the country where you have to look at a wind turbine?”
Angelo Capparella of Normal, an Illinois State University zoology professor, said he objects to a one-sentence section addressing wildlife near the developments.
“Either McLean County could care less about wildlife … or we’re very ignorant, despite already having (multiple) wind farms here,” he said.
County Building and Zoning Director Phil Dick said the county could expand that section of the policy.
Diane Benjamin of Ellsworth spoke against the policy allowing wind turbines taller than those of other local farms, which could be more dangerous to residents. William Rau of Bloomington praised the added generating capability of the taller turbines.
Benjamin also mentioned a farm near Prairie Central schools that she claimed lost state aid for the district because of increased property values.
“You’re always better off raising money locally than relying on state aid,” said Joe Bertsche of Chenoa.
County Board members requested the hearing after the ZBA approved the new policy this summer. District 1 Republican Catherine Metsker said the public wasn’t adequately informed, and she prefers stricter regulations.
“Further increases to setbacks may impede or even preclude wind development in McLean County,” said Katie Chapman, an EDP project manager, during the hearing. “That’s not an ordinance. That’s a moratorium.”
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