August 20, 2008

Woodford Approves El Paso Wind Farm

By Jerry McDowell

EUREKA - The Woodford County Board voted 10-3 to approve the El Paso wind farm project after stipulating that six towers within 1 miles of the city be removed.

The vote followed news Monday that Navitas Energy of Minneapolis had reached agreements with three El Paso area townships for road maintenance.

Voting against the project were Thomas Evans of Roanoke, Stanley Glazier of Congerville and Peter Lambie of East Peoria.

Thomas Janssen of Minonk proposed the stipulation that six remaining towers near El Paso be removed from the 40-tower project. Navitas earlier agreed to move six other towers near U.S. 24 and Interstate 39 to a southern part of the 3,000-acre site.

The board voted the same 10-3 on moving the six. Thomas Karr abstained, saying he recently discovered that he owns stock in Babcock and Brown, the company that purchased the project from Navitas. Carolyn Schertz of Low Point participated in the meeting by speaker telephone. Gary Jones of East Peoria was absent.

Wanda Davies of Navitas said the removal of the other six turbines will cause them to consider using larger capacity turbines, looking at other turbine sites and possibly working with the city of El Paso to remove their objections.

"We'll have to do some more studying on what the next step is going to be," she said.

She said the project cost could be $60 million to $100 million, depending on when the towers are built.

The company has one year to apply for a building permit, 18 months to begin construction and two years to complete the project.

"It's a bad deal for this county; it's a bad deal for this country," Karr said. A stipulation that he proposed to protect nearby residents from losing any property value was defeated 9-5.

Another stipulation proposed by Karr to limit water usage to 9,000 gallons per month at a maintenance building was defeated 8-6.

Janssen, a Minonk lawyer, argued that the board's two functions are legislative and administrative and that since the ordinance was legislated three years ago, to deny the permit as an administrative function would "be overturned as a matter of law."

Twelve people spoke during the public comment section, including two citing letters from the Illinois attorney general's office that the Zoning Board of Appeals may have violated the Open Meetings Act in approving the original project and in relocating the six turbines.

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