Board OKs 2nd wind farm for northern McLean County

BLOOMINGTON — It's official: two wind farms are coming to northern McLean County.

The county board signed off Tuesday on Bright Stalk Wind Farm, a 200-megawatt, 58-turbine development planned southeast of Chenoa, a month after approving McLean County Wind Energy Center, a 250-megawatt, 100-turbine farm planned southeast and north of Lexington.

Supporters have welcomed both projects for the jobs, property tax revenue — especially for schools — and clean energy production they'll bring to the county, but opponents have questioned how turbines will affect the property value, health and quality of life of residents who will live in their shadow.

While McLean County Wind Energy Center was approved on a 10-8 vote, board members voted 16-3 in favor of Bright Stalk after members voted to require developer EDP Renewables to offer sound studies to those who live within 2,000 feet of a turbine and do more to protect the local environment.

Members Don Cavallini, Chuck Erickson and George Wendt voted no. 

"There's six of us who represent the (rural) areas. There are 14 who live in the cities. ... If the six of us had the power to put a land dump in the middle of one of your cities so that we could generate some money for us, how would those 14 people like that?" said Wendt. "Our constituents don't want this."

The board first voted down an amendment from Cavallini to guarantee property owners fair market value for their property if its value is hurt by the wind farm. Members criticized the proposal as rushed — it wasn't reviewed by the county's legal or building and zoning staff — and lacking details.

The board also voted to not send the wind farm proposal back to the county's Zoning Board of Appeals, which approved it March 12 after weeks of public hearings, for further study, as member Bill Caisley proposed.

"(The ZBA) gave us a unanimous opinion and approved this," said member Paul Segobiano. "Maybe it's time we dissolve the Zoning Board of Appeals and we sit through all these hearings."

Bright Stalk is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022, and McLean County Wind Energy Center by the end of 2020.

Wind farms in the county also include Twin Groves Wind Farm, a two-phase, 396-megawatt farm near Ellsworth, and White Oak Energy Center, a 150-megawatt farm near Carlock.

In other business, the board:

• Approved two property tax settlements for apartments near Illinois State University. Erik Rankin and Carlo Robustelli, both Democrats, voted no on the proposals, which were criticized by the mostly-Democratic Normal Township Board and rejected by the non-partisan Normal Library Board.

• Approved upgrades to the intersection of Towanda Barnes and Ireland Grove roads to be completed this summer, including a free-flow right-turn lane on southbound Towanda Barnes. Officials scaled down the project, a partnership with the city of Bloomington.


MAR 21 2018
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