After a lengthy meeting Thursday night, the Stephenson County Zoning Board of Appeals voted not to recommend proposed changes to the county's zoning code that would alter the wind-farm application process.
The zoning board Thursday listened to testimony from a variety of objectors to the proposed changes. At the end of the nearly four-hour meeting, the board voted unanimously not to recommend the wind-farm changes.
Officials say the consensus of the board Thursday was that they could not recommend the altered zoning ordinance because the changes would limit the public's ability to object to future wind-farm projects.
URBANA - Two wind test towers built in Champaign County this year can stay up for now after a decision Friday in a case filed by neighbors of one of the towers.
Champaign County Common Pleas Judge Roger Wilson Friday ruled that the towers, on Talbot and Ault roads, can stay up while the permits that allowed them to be built are appealed.
Wilson Friday also declined to grant motions from two power companies' attorneys to dismiss the case.
Opponents of a wind farm project in McLean and Woodford counties have been spared the added costs of filing a new lawsuit to try to stop construction.
McLean County Judge Charles Reynard has rejected a motion filed by attorneys for the White Oak Wind Energy Center and the McLean County Board, which argued that the lawsuit was already settled in March. That’s when the judge allowed the project to continue because the full county board hadn’t issued the special use permit yet.
The 4th of July may be over, but fireworks were still going off Thursday night in a Stephenson County courtroom, during a heated wind farm debate.
Stephenson County's zoning director says what's at stake is a simple matter of updating the county's ordinances to make them more efficient. But the dozens of residents gathered for Thursday night's zoning meeting say efficiency comes at the cost of their rights to speak out and petition government.
Stephenson County officials say proposed changes to the county’s zoning code will streamline the application process for wind farm companies and make it more cost-effective to bring such projects to this area.
Opponents of the initiative, however, say these changes could be a way for the county to sidestep lawsuits seeking to stop two wind-farm companies from building in this county.
They also worry that the changes will limit the public’s ability to formally object to future wind-farm projects, since under the new proposed system such projects would no longer go before the county Zoning Board of Appeals for evaluation.
Stephenson County considers a few amendments that would make putting a wind farm up as easy as striking a deal with a private farm owner. A few residents who don't like the changes because they say it silences them.
Many of them have complaints about the windmills being next door. But some board members say it's just a way to speed up an "arduous" process. Lancaster Voices member Mike King says, "I do hear the turbines, they're not quiet. I do see the shadows."
STREATOR - An energy company based in Portland, Ore., wants to build 375 wind turbines in LaSalle and Livingston counties.
PPM Energy Inc. representatives discussed the proposed Streator-Cayuga Ridge wind farm at Wednesday's City Council meeting.
City Manager Paul Nicholson said the council must decide whether to extend the city enterprise zone, which will provide PPM Energy with a sales tax exemption in Streator on materials needed for construction. Nicholson said that if the proposal is approved, the city would receive compensation as well.
Nicholson said agreement may be reached in time for the council's July 18 meeting.
Urbana- Champaign County Common Pleas Judge Roger Wilson heard arguments Wednesday in the appeal of permits that allowed construction of wind test towers in Union Township.
The test towers could lead to the construction of wind turbines in the area.
An attorney for the McLean County Zoning Board board is trying to get a wind farm lawsuit thrown out. McLean County Assistant State's Attorney Brian Hug argues in a court filing that the group Information is Power should file a separate lawsuit to stop the White Oak Wind Farm, instead of re-filing an old suit that a judge rejected in March.
The wind-energy industry is fast expanding in Central Illinois, but one absentee on the bandwagon is the main company that supplies the area with power. With electric rates in legislative limbo, Ameren Corp. has yet to purchase wind energy for its Illinois subsidiaries, AmerenIP, AmerenCILCO and AmerenCIPS..."There's a big push overall in the country to see how we adapt renewable energy. There's a reality that needs to be expressed, so people know what challenges we face," Barbieri said. "If we were doing everything with wind, there would be times you flip the switch and the lights wouldn't come on ... We have to determine what's realistic."
GALESBURG - Local landowners and officials find that taxes are the taxing issue for a future Knox County wind farm.
Taxes are a concern in two ways: The challenge for local officials is how to value wind turbines for tax purposes. How the tax bill is paid is a concern for landowners, who don't want to pay the taxes for the turbines, which cost $1.6 million each, said Michael Arndt, development manager for Invenergy. The Chicago-based company plans to build 266 turbines in Knox County.
PONTIAC - A hearing for the first power company wanting to build a wind farm on Cayuga Ridge in Livingston County could be scheduled later this summer.
A second company is getting ready to file its applications to build in the same area.
PPM Energy of Portland, Ore., has filed a request as Heartland Wind with the county's zoning office to build 323 wind turbines in Livingston County. The total project is 373 wind turbines.
While Woodland School Board members continue to debate whether to move forward with plans for a proposed wind turbine, an Oregon-based company is bidding to bring a wind energy conversion system to Livingston County first.
But unlike the Woodland School Board, the Livingston County Board isn't allowing public comment on the topic until late summer at the earliest.
EUREKA - It's back to the drawing board for a proposed 79-turbine wind energy development near Benson.
Woodford County Administrator Gregory Jackson said Tuesday the new owners of the $260 million Benson Wind Farm project will resubmit applications that are required to be approved before the facility can be constructed.
The proposed site for a $5.5 million wind turbine tower just west of town has been a center of controversy for local residents.
On a 5-to-3 vote last week, the city council agreed to negotiate a contract with Johnson Controls to build a 2.5 megawatt wind turbine just west of the city. The council also approved acceptance of a $1.385 million Illinois Clean Energy Grant for the tower's installation.
Without the blades, the tower will rise more than 300 feet over the countryside. The blades will bring the full height to 425 feet.
The Livingston County Board learned details at its Thursday meeting of a filing late last Friday that will seek to erect 323 wind turbines in the county along two sides of Cayuga Ridge.
Heartland Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of PPM Energy, filed two wind-energy conversion system (WECS) applications on June 8.
The first application is for approval to construct and operate up to 154 turbines south and southeast of Interstate 55, along Cayuga Ridge. This will be known as Cayuga Ridge South Wind Project.
The second application is for up to 169 turbines north and west of I-55, along the ridge and will be known as Cayuga Ridge North Ridge Project. This will make a total of 323 turbines in Livingston County.
A bloc of homeowners sued McLean County this week to halt progress on a planned wind farm near Carlock, claiming public officials denied due process by blocking the views of opponents.
A group of McLean and Woodford county residents filed a complaint Thursday in McLean County court in an effort to prevent construction of a wind farm near their homes.
The complaint was filed by Melissa McGrath, attorney for the not-for-profit group Information is Power, in response to a recommendation by the McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals.
The board recommended that White Oak Energy LLC receive a special use permit to build a $250 million, 100 turbine wind farm to be spread over 12,000 acres in McLean and Woodford counties.
GENESEO - The city could have a new landmark in coming years.
Aldermen Tuesday voted to accept a $1.385 million Illinois Clean Energy Grant to help pay for a 2.5 megawatt wind turbine, to be built on the northwest side of Geneseo, outside the city limits.
Mayor Herb Arbuckle and other members of the council expressed concern that land taken up by wind turbines could have detrimental effects on economic growth and development, property values because of obstructed views, noise or light pollution and possible electronic and radio interference that could affect emergency radio signals. "We've got to look 20 to 30 years down the road when we consider this," Arbuckle said. Council member Dick Jones said looking down the road, he can see the turbines harming residential property development west of town.