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County moratorium on wind farm applications extended

The Piatt County board has extended its moratorium on wind farm applications for another six months, keeping it in effect until about mid-March.

A six-month moratorium was scheduled to expire in September, but the county has yet to finalize changes to its wind energy conversion ordinance, most notably the portion that covers large-scale wind farms.

Apex Clean Energy announced plans to pursue a 120-turbine wind project in northern Piatt County in April of 2019. The county has approved changes to its permit fee structure, but ordinance guidelines on turbine setbacks and allowable noise have been sticking points at zoning board sessions.

The moratorium extension was approved unanimously by the county board on Aug. 12.

“I don’t have a problem with an extension as long as we don’t use it as a crutch not to do anything for six months,” said board member Dale Lattz.

County Board Chairman Ray Spencer said the zoning board of appeals is still awaiting guidance in some areas of the wind energy ordinance before it can proceed. The board agreed to discuss those issues and pass along that guidance in September.

A spokesman for Apex Clean Energy said the moratorium should not affect its timeline noting the company does not plan to apply for permits until 2022. But Senior Development Manager Alan Moore hopes the moratorium does not stretch out further than March of next year.

“Goose Creek Wind supports the board’s decision to take a reasonable amount of time to ensure its updates to the wind ordinance are thoughtful and thoroughly researched,” said Moore. “As Mr. Lattz stated, it is important that this extension does not become a form of kicking the can down the road. This gives the ZBA and board a clear timeline to write an evidence-based ordinance, providing a path toward safe wind development that is fair to the many landowners who wish to participate.”

County board member Shannon Carroll agreed that the moratorium should not enable a posture of inaction.

“I hope during the six months we could have the language ordinance finalized so that we can have it before the moratorium has expired,” said Carroll.

The Goose Creek project is expected to generate about 300 Megawatts of energy and provide about 200 jobs during construction, in addition to 15 to 20 ongoing ones after construction is complete.