May 1, 2019

Board vote fails to grant wind energy permit

By: Gordon Woods | Clinton Journal | Apr 26, 2019 |

CLINTON – Tradewind Energy officials report they are assessing their options after a vote taken by the county board Thursday resulted in a tie. The tie vote blocks Tradewind from receiving a special use permit for its planned Alta Farms wind energy project in northern DeWitt County.

After about an hour of public comment from those for and those against the project, county board members discussed the plan and their concerns. Board members were precluded from considering any public comments not already testified to during Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearings.

Board member and chairman of the county’s land use committee, Terry Ferguson, created some moments of suspense, when he introduced a series of conditions to attach to the motion to grant the special use permit. Conditions often are added to motions to try to ensure a project is conducted in accordance with county objectives.

Ultimately, after some hesitation, Ferguson voted against granting the permit, creating a 6-5 vote with one abstention and failure of the motion. Ferguson’s primary concern focused on information introduced fairly late in the two-year-long process.

An expert who testified as part of a group against the wind energy project said wind turbine towers create interference with Doppler radar used in tracking storms, which could create some dangerous conditions for residents.

Tradewind officials said Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded the Alta Farm project would produce little if any interference with weather radar.

Nevertheless, the issue of towers having the potential to prevent weather radar from detecting tornados and other threatening weather conditions was a key topic of debate among board members.

Project manager for Tradewind, Tom Schwierczewski issued the following statement after the vote:

“We’d like to thank the DeWitt County Board, the Regional Planning Commission, and the Zoning Board of Appeals for their time, consideration, and dedication listening to the public on this important project. Although we did not get the outcome our supporters and participating landowners wished to see, we would like to thank them for all of their hard work in developing this project. We continue to believe that the Alta Farms Wind Farm is a unique opportunity for DeWitt County to increase funding for their schools, put money into the tax base to have better infrastructure, create good paying jobs, and lower taxes. At this point we plan to reassess the situation and our options moving forward.”

The Journal will report more on the details of the board debate later in an update.

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