BLOOMINGTON – McLean County has new rules for wind farm construction despite lingering concerns from some county board members.
The board voted 17-2 Tuesday to amend county code to include more regulations for future wind development, including specific setbacks, turbine heights, decommissioning requirements and wildlife impact studies.
The changes are meant to standardize regulations in previous special use permits for wind farms, particularly before two competing wind farm projects in northeast McLean County take shape.
Members said the rules are a positive step, particularly wildlife guidelines added since the board sent the proposal back to the Zoning Board of Appeals in July for more testimony.
Board members said then the public hadn’t received enough opportunity to comment on the changes, but they were satisfied after two additional hearings.
District 1 Republican Catherine Metsker and District 3 Republican George Wendt voted against the changes.
“Setbacks of 1,500 feet from a resident’s home is not enough. However, the Zoning Board of Appeals did not agree. … I can reluctantly accept this,” Metsker said. “However, I am disappointed that stronger decommissioning language was not added. … I do not believe this text amendment provides adequate financial funds to protect our residents, properties and townships.”
Don Cavallini, Jim Soeldner, Scott Murphy, Randall Martin, William Caisley, Mark Johnson, John McIntyre, George Gordon, Laurie Wollrab, Rich Buchanan, Victoria Harris, Carlo Robustelli, Paul Segobiano, Erik Rankin, Susan Schafer, Chuck Erickson and Josh Barnett voted in favor of the guidelines.
David Selzer did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
“The decommissioning issue will be an issue in the future, but we also need to remember that the assessed valuation in Dawson Township went from $13 million to $24 million because of the wind farm. That’s helped the taxpayers in our township and in the county,” Soeldner said.
Chicago-based Invenergy hopes to build a 250-megawatt wind farm in Chenoa, Lawndale, Lexington and Yates townships by the end of 2018. Houston-based EDP Renewables North America is looking at those townships and Gridley Township for its farm, also set to be operational in 2018.
Both companies are in the process of leasing property where turbines would be built. EDP filed a building permit Oct. 28 for a $170,000 meteorological tower in Yates Township, a step toward turbine construction.
“You won’t see any kind of partnership between the two (developers). It will end up being either one or the other,” said Invenergy Project Development Manager Brad Pnazek.
In other business, the board thanked Harris for her service on the board since 2012. She lost in this month’s election and will be unseated when the board swears in Republican Jacob Beard and reorganizes 8 a.m. Dec. 5.