CLINTON – A decision on the first wind farm in DeWitt County, an investment of $300 million, could come as early as next month.
Tradewind Energy Inc. has officially filed the 1,270-page special-use permit application with the county’s zoning office, meaning the Regional Planning Commission could consider the application Oct. 16.
Opponents of the project are planning a 6 p.m. Thursday community meeting at Vespasian Warner Public Library in Clinton to discuss the special-use permit application.
The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to meet Nov. 5, and the permit could go before the county board Nov. 15. The commission and the zoning board of appeals will make recommendations to the county board that can approve the request, attach conditions or deny the application.
“Alta Farms is excited for the opportunity to develop this project in DeWitt County,” said James Griffin, an attorney for the company. “We look forward to appearing before the DeWitt County Regional Planning Commission, the DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals and the DeWitt County Board on this application in the coming months.”
In its application, Tradewind Energy indicated the company plans 68 turbines with a maximum total tower height not to exceed 591 feet. The $300 million investment would create 254 jobs during construction and 21 permanent jobs during operation, the company said.
Additionally, it would provide an estimated $21 million in tax revenue to the Clinton School District, more than $5 million in DeWitt County property taxes, another $3.3 million to Barnett, Clintonia and Wapella townships in property taxes and $5.9 million in property taxes for community colleges, fire departments and libraries over the next 40 years, based on company data.
The project encompasses more than 12,000 acres in a footprint stretching from Waynesville to Wapella. If approved, construction would begin as soon as mid-2019 with commercial operation targeted by the end of 2020. The company has shown interest in DeWitt County for more than a decade.
Opponents already have fought hard to strengthen the county’s wind farm ordinance code, gaining some victories, but losing several others, including limiting the heights of the turbines.
“In reviewing Tradewind’s application, it is clear that it does not meet the criteria for a special-use permit in DeWitt County,” said DeWitt County resident Andrea Rhoades, one of the wind farm’s opponents.
Rhoades will host the community meeting at Vespasian Warner Public Library, where the permit will be discussed.
“Not only does it fail to meet the criteria, it is incomplete with important project details missing which is concerning to me as a resident living near the proposed project,” Rhoades said. “No other company would be allowed to pursue a project of this magnitude with so many important details missing that will impact the day-to-day lives of nearby residents.”
In its application, the company promised to abide by the recently adopted changes to the wind farm ordinance, including the use of an Aircraft Lighting Mitigation System.
“Alta Farms is still in the process of determining which of these systems is best suited for use at the project, and we anticipate this effort continuing for several more months, including negotiating availability and pricing,” said Tom Swierczewski, development director for the project.
Once that is completed, Tradewind Energy will submit a marking and lighting study to the county board for approval, he said.
The turbines, according to the application, will not come from Trinity Structural Towers that has a manufacturing facility in Clinton. Previously, Tradewind Energy officials said the factory did not manufacture the turbine size necessary for the project.
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