The Lexington City Council held a public discussion meeting in the high school gymnasium on Jan. 22 to get local feedback on Chicago-based Invenergy’s intent to construct, own and operate 18 wind turbines within the mile-and-a-half setback of the City of Lexington’s corporate limits.
A mixed crowd of concerned community members and people from neighboring communities voiced both negative and positive opinions about the proposal before the city council ultimately approved a decision to place nine turbines within the corporate city limits at its regular council meeting, which followed the public discussion.
One of the speakers during the public discussion was Kevin Parzyck, Invenergy’s vice president of development for the Central Illinois region. Parzyck spoke briefly about the benefits of the proposed wind farm, as well as their compliance with county’s noise, environmental and decommissioning requirements.
“It was an extensive process, but our response as a developer has been to be rigorously compliant with these standards,” Parzyck said. “The turbines that would be located within this mile-and-a-half boundary would be in compliance with those McLean County Zoning Ordinances.”
Parzyck also told the crowd that the wind turbines would bring numerous jobs. During the construction process, which is estimated to take about a year to complete, Parzyck estimated that 1,400 full-time jobs would be created. Long term, he said there would be a potential for approximately 35 jobs to be created, both working for the company and within the community.
“These are Illinois-based jobs,” Parzyck said. “Invenergy is an Illinois-based company and this is a very much an Illinois-driven project for the community that would benefit both the state and the county.”
Parzyck also spoke briefly about the benefits that the wind farm could give to Lexington and McLean County. In the first year, the city would receive $3,000 per turbine, escalating up to approximately $5,800 per turbine over 30 years. From the Lexington School District’s perspective, Supt. Dwight Stricklin called the proposal a “game changer.”
“Based on the assumption of nine turbines within a mile and a half and 46 outside the mile and a half, the total dollars generated to the school district, based on the level of $350,000 of EAV per turbine, amounts to $13,381,812,” Stricklin said. “From a financial point of view, that is a game changer for the school district.”
Stricklin said the biggest benefit of the proposed wind farm, is that it would make the district less reliant on funding from the state. He proposed that, if the city council approved the wind turbines, the district could create an educational system that would benefit students and ultimately draw people to the community.
“Let’s make this a great opportunity for new families,” Stricklin said. “We’ll tell them, ‘come to Lexington, see what we can do.’ I hope we can draw students to Lexington because of what we can do and what we can offer.”
After hearing from the authorities, the city council invited community members to speak. Among the numerous speakers, Diane Moran, a Lexington resident, was opposed to the wind farm.
“I do a lot of work for people in this community because I love it so much. That being said, I am a little disappointed. I don’t want this here,” Moran said. “I do love the school and I understand where people are coming from, but I don’t want this for our town.
“My husband and I chose to raise our son here in this community and I finally have lived in one place the longest I have in my whole life. My father once told me, ‘you need to go someplace and find your roots.’ I thought I found my roots and I hope that you don’t kill them.”
Another community member, Jason Thomas, gave a positive opinion about the wind farms.
“I do not personally want a turbine near my house,” Thomas said. “But when I remove my personal emotion and the nostalgia about my home town from the issue, I see the opportunity that the windmills present for the community.
“All taxing bodies will receive a boost in revenue. Our community will benefit from the fire district having additional money that it can use to upgrade the equipment and provide better fire prevention services, or reduce the tax levy, or both,” Thomas added.
“Our park district also loses money each year due to our aging pools that need repairs that the district cannot afford to make. Perhaps the park district can update our pools or even assist in developing an all-new rec center for the community. In the long run, I believe our children and future generations will benefit from this opportunity.”
Lexington Mayor Spencer Johansen said although there was light discussion about the wind farms a year ago, the city council was officially approached by Invenergy about adding the wind turbines about five months prior to their January decision.
“Even when they first started talking to us, the actual number of wind turbines they would propose wasn’t really discussed until months later,” Johansen said.
Johansen wasn’t sure what to expect at the public discussion meeting, but he felt it was only right to give the community an opportunity to voice their opinions.
“I’ve always had an open door policy and I’m willing to listen to anyone that wants to come in and talk,” he said. “So, that’s what we did. We listened to everyone before making our decision.”
Knowing that no decision would be good for everyone, Johansen said he feels good about the decision that the board approved. He feels that going from the proposed 18 wind turbines down to nine was a good compromise that will benefit the community.
“We looked at the corporate map and refused the wind turbines that we felt were located in areas of potential growth for the city. We looked at what could harm the potential growth of Lexington and nothing else,” Johansen said. “I think what was approved is a good compromise.”