For the second time in less than one week, a Woodford County committee has voted to send a controversial wind farm development before the full County Board after the project has sat in limbo for nearly one year.
On Tuesday, the county's Conservation, Planning and Zoning Committee recommended by a vote of 3-2 that the proposed El Paso wind farm be placed on the agenda for consideration at its May 20 meeting. The motion was put forth by board member Larry Whitaker who, along with Gary Jones and Committee Chairman James Finke, voted in favor of it. Opposed were board members Thomas Evans and Thomas Karr.
Seventeen of the approximately 70 people attending the three-hour session spoke to the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals, which is holding the hearing and will make a recommendation to the Livingston County Board on the special use permit needed for a wind farm under county zoning. ...The first person presenting evidence Monday, Judy Campbell, of Manville, and a candidate for the Livingston County Board, cited "cumulative" negative impacts of the proposed wind farm, on people, agriculture and the rural character of the county. She said wind energy has an "uncertain future" and that the Cayuga Ridge project was not consistent in all respects with the county's comprehensive plan.
With northern Logan County embroiled in a controversy over a plan that would dot the rural landscape with 400-foot-tall wind turbines, a new government report is predicting that in two decades, Americans could get as much electricity from windmills as from nuclear power plants. ...If achieved, it would be an astounding leap.
Wind energy today accounts for only about 1 percent of the nation's electricity, although the industry has been on a growth binge with a 45 percent jump in production last year. ...But the report cautioned that its findings were not meant to predict that such growth would, in fact, be achieved, but only that it is technically possible.
A Woodford County Board committee voted Monday to recommend that the board act as a "facilitator" in bringing the El Paso Wind Farm to a vote.
"To me it's just a total failure of leadership," central services committee Chairman Gary Jones of East Peoria said. "Maybe this does no good, but I know what doing nothing does."
Jones said the intent is not to recommend a vote for or against the wind farm, but an effort to get an agreement that the full board can vote on.
Opponents argued the wind farm would endanger public health and the environment and damage property values. Those in favor of the development said it was a "win-win" situation because various taxing bodies would benefit from the property taxes, and they saw no problems with an existing wind farm in McLean County.
"I've been trying to keep informed on wind farms for three years ... and the more I learn about this industry the more complicated it seems to get," said Livingston County Board Member-elect Judy Campbell of Manville, who opposes the wind farm.
Woodford County Board member Larry Whitaker was removed Thursday from his seats on three county committees after he tried to place the contentious El Paso wind farm project before the board, officials confirmed Friday.
Board Chairman John Krug said he pulled Whitaker, a 10-year veteran of the board, from the Road and Bridge Committee, the Conservation, Planning, and Zoning Committee as well as his seat on the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission because Whitaker overstepped his bounds and possibly opened the county up to litigation.
At the outset of Thursday's hearing at Hartsburg-Emden High School, [Attorney Rich] Porter warned the zoning board it should not allow the procedure to continue.
"I have butted myself into the process early, because they should be stopped now," he said, referring to the wind farm developers.
"I'm not going to go away," Porter warned board members. "I'm going to appeal and I'm going to win."
Porter also raised a formal objection to the nature of the wind farm's petition - to obtain a conditional use zoning permit granting it permission to erect the wind turbines on land zoned for agricultural use. He said Rail Splitter's application over-reaches the very nature of the special use permit since it takes in several hundred acres of land and will "completely change your landscape."
Applications for the erection of 300 more wind turbines in La Salle County are possible within the next 90 days. That was the prediction of Mike Harsted, director of La Salle County's Environmental Services and Land Use office, just prior to the County Board's vote to lift restrictions on wind farm growth.
Instead of a limit on megawatt production, the restriction now is a limit of 100 new wind turbines per year per applicant.
Harsted said the 100-turbine limit will allow his office to process and track wind tower growth in the county.
The Logan County Regional Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend approval of a conditional-use zoning permit for Horizon Wind Energy to construct the Rail Splitter Wind Farm, which will take up sections of agriculturally zoned land in southern Tazewell County and northern Logan County.
The meeting, which lasted approximately two-and-a-half hours, was mostly dominated by lawyers' speeches from both Union Ridge Wind, which opposes the project, and Horizon. ...When speaking about property values, Logan County board chairman Dick Logan seemed visibly agitated.
"We're in a recession, property values are decreasing everywhere," Logan said. Porter also questioned Horizon representatives about health issues associated with wind turbines, but the company didn't acknowledge such a problem exists.
An Invenergy representative made a pitch Wednesday to get Streator enterprise zone benefits for the second phase of the wind energy company's La Salle County project.
Michael Arndt, senior development manager for Chicago-based Invenergy, addressed the Streator City Council in a committee of the whole meeting, outlining the rural Grand Ridge project's second phase and explaining why the company wants that part of the project included in the Streator enterprise zone.
The first phase of the Grand Ridge wind farm, which is being constructed, includes 66 wind turbines that are included in Ottawa's enterprise zone.
The Woodford County Road and Bridge Committee voted at its meeting today to send the controversial El Paso wind farm to the County Board for action.
By a 3-2 vote, the committee agreed to place the item on the May 20 agenda where the board, in theory, will either approve, reject or table the nearly 3,000-acre project slated to sit between El Paso and Secor. ...A lack of an agreement between the developer, Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy, and road commissioners from El Paso, Palestine and Greene townships is currently keeping it on hold.
Logan County regional planner Phil Mahler said he expects to hear a lot of opposition to a proposed wind farm at today's Regional Planning Commission meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. in the Logan County Courthouse.
Barb Aper of Union Ridge Wind hopes to exceed Mahler's expectations. ...
One of Aper's main concerns is that no one has addressed how she is supposed to navigate outside of her residence with the main roads to the east and west set to be blocked by construction.
"A county board member told me that I should stay at my mother's house while they were doing construction," Aper said. "I have a heart condition and am worried about having access to those roads."
This is only one of the concerns dismissed by county board members, according to Aper.
A proposal to build an 80-turbine wind farm straddling the DeKalb-Lee county line could be before the two counties' boards as early as July, representatives of Florida Power & Light Energy said at an open house Tuesday. ...The company proposed a 64-turbine farm in DeKalb County in 2003. Despite a vocal opposition, FPL obtained the property easements and county permits it needed, but the company abandoned the project when it was unable to find a buyer for the electricity. While the current proposal has been better received, some residents who live near the proposed turbine sites are not sold on the idea.
The Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals has been holding public hearings since April 1, getting public input on the proposed Rail Splitter Wind Farm by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy LLC. ...Spanos presented an acoustical engineer from Michigan who said the wind towers would create noise that could affect nearby residents and a real estate appraiser who said property values near the farm could drop.
"These wind farm turbines surround the properties," said Michael McCann, a real estate appraiser from Chicago who said homes near the proposed farm could drop in value between 20 percent and 30 percent.
Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz has said extending the zone with 3-foot strips of land down to the southern part of the county to include the wind towers is against the letter and spirit of the state's Enterprise Zone Act.
"This proposed expansion of the enterprise zone is in clear conflict with the purpose, intent and standards of the Enterprise Zone Act and its accompanying administrative regulations," Umholtz said in a written decision issued Monday.
Aviation safety and quality-of-life issues were the top concerns of people testifying Wednesday at the third night of a public hearing on the proposed Cayuga Ridge Wind Farm.
When the third consecutive three-hour session reached its time limit, people remained on the list of those wanting to comment or testify, and the hearing was continued until 7 p.m. Monday, May 12, in the auditorium at Pontiac Township High School. ...Frank Deninger, of Pontiac, spoke both as an individual and as a member of the Livingston County Board. He said the turbines "will radically alter the countryside." He described himself as "a County Board member who finds himself in a quandary. He owns no property in the wind-farm area, but Deninger told the Board of Appeals that as a County Board member "for me the choice may be a miserable one either way" when it comes time to vote on the special-use permit.
The third day of a public hearing on a proposed Livingston County wind farm proved to be an emotional one as residents, most of whom oppose the project, expressed their opinions.
"I believe that our comfort level is being threatened," said Melinda Cusack of Blackstone, who said she worries good people will be "chased out of the county" by what she says will be damage to the quality of life.
"We stand to lose a lot of good people in this county ... and is it really worth it?"
Several Livingston County residents, primarily from rural areas, voiced their concerns Wednesday to the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals about the plan proposed by PPM Energy, a Portland, Ore.- based wind developer.
Instead of requiring an escrow account for the work, a proposed change also would allow the additional options of a surety bond or irrevocable letter of credit.
Actually, there already is a financial incentive to remove the turbines when their lives are over, said Mike Arndt, senior development manager of Invenergy, which is building a 66-turbine wind farm south of the Illinois River.
At the end of the meeting, the ZBA voted on a package of zoning ordinance adjustments that included lifting restrictions on wind farm growth. The full County Board likely will vote on the changes at its meeting next week. ...the County Board this month signaled it favors no limit on a wind farm's electricity generating capacity limit, a recommendation the ZBA went along with but did not discuss Tuesday.
Now the only recommended restriction is each application for a special use concerning wind farm tower installations be limited to 100 turbines.
Residents with a variety of opinions about wind farms got the chance Tuesday night to question the developers of the proposed Streator-Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm.
While some asked representatives of Portland Ore.-based PPM Energy about how much tax money will pour into local coffers and how many jobs will be created, others expressed fears that a wind farm would threaten health and property values.
"Right now, we are considering moving," Cheryl Tate of Blackstone said after the questioning concluded. She said she is new to the area and her family is distressed by the idea of living near a wind farm.