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Board OKs wind farm expansion

The Grand Ridge wind farm is expanding.

On Thursday, the La Salle County Board approved a special-use permit for up to 32 new turbines, though officials expect about 20 to be constructed.

The wind farm’s owner, Chicago-based Invenergy, hopes to begin construction by as early as next spring, said Kevin Parzyck, the company’s vice president of development. The wind farm, which was approved in 2008, contains 140 turbines.

The turbines are in Grand Rapids Township, which is east of Grand Ridge.

The county included a number of conditions for the wind farm. One of them is the offering of good neighbor agreements to compensate residents within a half mile of the turbines. Neighbors of wind farms sometimes dislike the noise, shadow flicker and the effects on the scenery associated with turbines.

“Once we finalize locations, then we will go forward with good neighbor agreements,” Parzyck said.

The agreement with the county also requires the company to conduct monitoring of the impact on wildlife, including bird collisions with turbines.

Member David Zielke, R-Leland, questioned the point of the monitoring.

County attorney Mark Anderson said the monitoring would have no effect on the current wind farm, but the results of the monitoring could be a guide for future projects.

The county board unanimously approved the wind farm proposal, with the conditions. The county’s zoning board, which conducted a hearing on the project, heard no objections and recommended it.

In April, the county board approved the construction of a 53-turbine wind farm for Allen and Otter Creek townships.

In La Salle County, hearings for wind farms typically take one night. In other nearby counties, hearings can drag on for months.

In other business, the county board:

— Rejected a proposed horse-racing facility at a farm in the 2700 block of N. 4251st Road near Sheridan. The racing would have been done on a strip, rather than in an oval. The county’s zoning board recommended against the facility. The facility would have required a zoning change. “They were looking to put it in the flood plain area. You can’t build in a flood plain,” said County Board Chairman Jerry Hicks, D-Marseilles. The proposal was made by Victorino Martinez and Alejandro Martinez.

— Appointed Brian Gift as the new environmental services and land use director. He has been acting director since the beginning of the month. He replaced Mike Harsted, who served for two decades until resigning earlier this year.

— Appointed Carol Neurohr to replace Julie Jackson as the county’s director of school services. Jackson, who retired Wednesday, started in 1999 as a staff nurse and was promoted to director a year later. According to a county resolution, she was responsible for the daily operation of school services and meeting mandates to provide those services. Neurohr has been a staff nurse with La Salle County School Service. The department’s services include the Vision Care Program, which provides free eye exams to children; training of school nurses; and a program for CPR training materials for schools.

— Approved a special-use permit to allow Rita Kline to build a 900-square-foot garage at 2773 E. 2551st Road in Marseilles.

— Slightly increased animal control fees.