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Champaign County Board Sends Wind Farm Back to ZBA

Champaign County's Zoning Board of Appeals will again take up the issue of 30 wind turbines locating north of Royal.

The county board's committee of the whole Tuesday night sent the issue back to the ZBA after seeing a revised agreement from Chicago-based Invenergy on the decommissioning of turbines. The zoning board had recommended against the wind farm due to the salvage value of turbines if Invenergy were to go out of business. The ZBA again takes up the issue Thursday.

The full county board will again vote on the wind farm at its November 17th meeting. At that meeting in two weeks, the board will also vote on a road use agreement forwarded Tuesday that ensures maintenance of a two-mile stretch of county roads used during wind farm construction.

Democrat Christopher Alix says it's the ZBA's job to review special use permits, and should see the revised language.

"I don't think it's our position as a county board to weigh in on weather wind power is good or bad or profitable or not," he said. "I think our obligation is just to make sure whatever they do is not putting the neighbors at inconvenience or putting the taxpayers at risk."

Republican Alan Nudo suggests county officials work harder to come up with a better salvage value of Invenergy's 30 wind turbines, suggesting that the county board might be too large a body to address that issue.

"I didn't sense any groundswell when I made the suggestion," said Nudo. "And you can't manufacture that. You have to see if people are interested in maximizing the agreement we have with them. And so far we've been thrown this salvage value, and I just don't feel good about relying on that for decomissioning."

County Board members voted 23 to 1 to forward the special use permit to the ZBA, with Republican Steve Moser casting the lone dissenting vote.

Invenergy attorney Michael Blazer says new language ensures that whoever the company finances the project with will also be obligated to decommission the turbines in the event they ever take over the project. He says Champaign County now has 'absolute protection' against liability. Invenergy officials also ensured county board members that wind turbines would be placed at distances that adhere to Illinois Pollution Control Board standards, stating that noise pollution won't be a concern.

Blazer says it's still possible wind farm construction will start this year in Champaign County, noting work is already underway on Vermilion County's portion of the project, about 100 turbines near Kickapoo State Park.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics