CLINTON – A recommendation from the DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals on the controversial DeWitt County wind farm proposal could come this week after the final four public meetings that begin on Tuesday.
Each meeting begins at 5 p.m. at Clinton High School and is scheduled for five hours. All meetings are open to the public.
Following the public testimony, the ZBA will vote on a recommendation that will be forwarded to the DeWitt County Board for consideration next month.
Last week, over three nights, the seven-member ZBA heard Tradewind Energy’s presentation and from supporters of the project.
“We are grateful to have had the chance last week to present Alta Farms II to the DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals and the residents of DeWitt County,” said Tom Swierczewski, development director for Tradewind Energy.
“As was clearly demonstrated during the nearly 15 hours over three nights of hearings last week, the application is complete, fully meets the requirements of the DeWitt County zoning code, and would be an asset to the community.”
As proposed, the $300 million wind farm would include about 67 individual wind turbines, each no taller than 591 feet in total height. The project would be spread over about 12,202 acres in Barnett, Wapella and Clintonia townships.
If approved, it would be the first wind farm in DeWitt County.
More than 50 people signed up to speak in support of the project, though only about a dozen actually spoke. Also testifying on behalf of Tradewind Energy was Illinois State University economics professor David Loomis, who said the project would bring 254 new jobs during construction and up to 21 new, long-term jobs.
He also said the project would yield a nearly $300 million capital investment in DeWitt County and millions of new tax dollars for DeWitt County school taxing districts.
This week, opponents of the project will get the chance to state their reasons for why the wind farm should not be approved.
Among those objections are threats to wildlife. Anticipating those arguments, Tradewind Energy last week brought in Courtney Dohoney, the chief environmental scientist at Ecology and Environment, a New York-based energy and engineering company, who testified the project would have minimal impact on wildlife and that the company is cooperating on any possible issues with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“We know how important it is to have those experts available to address the questions of the community,” Swierczewski said.
About 200 people attended each of the first four meetings, which began Feb. 5. About 60 people have signed up to testify before the ZBA to oppose the project. Like those testifying on behalf of the wind farm, they also will be open to cross examination.
Andrea Rhoades, a vocal opponent of the wind farm, said she was surprised that Tradewind officials weren’t more familiar with DeWitt County.
“They mention that they’ve been in our county for 10 years, yet their lack of knowledge about county basics has been disappointing,” she said. “Our residents came prepared with thoughtful questions and concerns that were often met with inadequate responses from experts hired by Tradewind. When asked about the Mahomet Aquifer, which supplies over 850,000 people with water, the project engineer admitted he was unaware of that water source and could not comment on whether this project would have an impact.”
Several County Board members have attended the first three meetings. A court reporter is recording the testimony that will be transcribed and sent to all board members.
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