An Ogle Township landowner who has served as the area’s most vocal opponent to the idea of a Shaffer Mountain wind farm put his words to music Monday, bringing a portable boombox – and a song he’d written – to the township’s meeting.
But the meeting ended before Joseph Cominsky could play the song, with supervisors opting to adjourn just seconds after the meeting began when the Paint Township resident stood up and repeatedly insisted on receiving time equal to as wind energy group Invenergy to make a presentation.
“This isn’t the Joe Cominsky show,” township supervisors Chairman Harvey Weyandt Jr. said, noting that Cominsky spent much of last month’s meeting – and in some ways, much of the past decade – making his case against windmills. “You don’t run this meeting.”
Weyandt said that Invenergy planned to make a presentation to the board Monday night and that Cominsky could ask as many questions as he wanted – but “you already made your presentation,” he added.
That prompted Cominsky to decry the decision as “communism.”
And that prompted Weyandt to abruptly end the meeting.
“Like I said earlier, I was willing to sit here for four hours to answer any questions anybody might have … but I’m not putting up with this. We’re done,” Weyandt said.
“This meeting is dismissed.”
The scene played out in front of a crowd of more than 30, including a young girl who entered the meeting with family asking, “Is Grandpa going to play his song now?”
Cominsky’s nearly 5-minute folk song, which he played outside the meeting, described windmills as eyesores and green energy as a “total illusion” built on empty promises.
It echoed anti-wind wordage that Cominsky has delivered for years, citing worries a wind farm would send property values plummeting.
For five years, he fought against Gamesa’s plans to build a wind farm near his family’s land until the company dropped the idea in 2012.
He successfully pushed for guidelines restricting the placement of windmills a decade ago. Ever since a new company – Chicago-based Invenergy – erected meteorological towers in the fall to study wind speeds in the same area, he’s been urging the board to increase setbacks and add other guidelines.
Invenergy project developer Ryan Van Portfliet attended Monday’s meeting to introduce the company to the township, noting that he’s used to being greeted with apprehension when new wind projects are announced. Usually he’s not dealing with it this soon, he added, noting Invenergy is still at least nine months away from determining if it’s worthwhile to build a wind farm on the mountain.
The test towers will likely record wind strength, consistency and other measurements until fall, giving Invernergy a year’s worth of data to study, he said.
“Until we have a much better idea of what we’re looking at … we don’t know if a project is viable, let alone how many turbines,” he said.
“It’s usually a two- to three-year process from testing to construction.”
Now, it might be a two-month process to deliver that message – at least in a meeting setting.
Van Portfliet stayed after the meeting to chat with attendees one-on-one but said his group planned to return for the next meeting to address the board.
“We want to have an open communication line with people. We want to be here to answer questions,” Van Portfliet said, adding that he now plans to address the board at the next meeting. “We’ll be back.”
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