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January 19, 2015     Times
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January 19, 2015
 

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Can You Hear Me Now? By Mike Lakin As with past meetings of the Logan County Board of Appeals, 125 - 150 people attended the Wind Turbine meeting held at the Mt. Pulaski Christian Church Family Life Center. These people ventured out on a very cold night expecting to hear important deliberations of the Board of Appeals because this was the meeting where the members were to take a vote. The previous meetings had been held in the Family Life Center and people in attendance heard everyone that spoke. They also clearly heard Relight attor- ney Robert Paladino and clearly heard members of the Board of Appeals. Chairman Doug Thompson opened the meeting stating that there would not be any public input at this meeting and that the Board of Appeals member would discuss several matters - whether the proposed Wind Turbine Project met the five cri- teria required by the County's Conditional Use ordinance and aspects of the information and testimony given at the earlier hearings. After Mr. Thompson's open- ing statements a problem sur- faced that caused comments after the meeting. The Board of Appeals members were gath- ered at a table and people in attendance were seated at vari- ous places in the Family Life Center. The intention was to use a microphone that was to be passed around so that state- ments made during delibera- tions could be heard by every- one. A few minutes into the deliberations, the wheels fell off that idea. While board mem- bers discussed various matters during the next hour and a half they -individually - failed at times to use that microphone and those deliberations were not heard very far beyond their table. As one person com- mented,.. "Why couldn't they talk like they were using their cell phone in a crowded restau- rant so we could all hear?" Anyway, I was close enough to record those ever so faint words and with an audio enhancement program, that has a fair accuracy, this is what was discussed... The members of the Zoning Board of Appeals found the Wind Turbine Project met the following county criteria: Standards for Decisions and Recommendations of the Board of Appeals and Planning Com- mission: No conditional use permit shall be recommended by the Board of Appeals or the Planning Commission unless there is a concurring vote of a majority of all members present on findings of fact that: The establishment, mainte- nance or operation of the condi- tional use will not be detrimen- tal to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare. The conditional use will not be injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property in the immediate vicinity for the purpose already permitted nor substantially diminish property values within the neighbor- hood. The establishment of the con- ditional use will not impede the normal and orderly develop- ment and improvement of the surrounding property for uses permitted in the district. b g Heating. Cooling Backhoe Service Septic Systems IL LIC 058-147596  %: .... :: ! dt ...........  Fully Insured  Painting Small Repairs Other Handyman Jobs Larry L Conaway Jr 217-737-4133 615 S Sprinl St - Mt Pulaski Adequate utilities, access roads, drainage or necessary facilities have been or will be provided. Adequate measures have been or will be taken to provide ingress and egress so designed as to minimize traffic conges- tion in the public streets. The existing 1,000-foot set- back from residences was dis- cussed; no recommendation for an increase was made. As for noise issues a consen- sus was reached that after oper- ation commenced it would be determined if the turbines were properly running in what was called "noise reduction mode". After operation of the turbines commence a noise study/survey would be done within six- months for all properties within a 1/4 mile area. Interference with the National Weather Service Doppler Radar was considered resolved. "Mea- sures were available to meet issues". Communications interference involving public service, mobile communication, TV reception, and GPS was considered to be "mitigatable". Ifa mode of com- munication worked before the wind turbines became opera- tional, Relight would agree to determine a solution. A study by Relight deter- mined that no major effect would be evident concerning area wildlife; study accepted. Shadow flicker was deter- mined to be an annoyance miti- gated by Relight purchasing window covering and/or land- scaping to block the flicker from turning turbine blades. As for various health issues raised, nothing was addressed. Potential diminished property values were called the issue that was "hard to nail down". Stud- ies provided the board ranged from having a positive effect to no effect to a 25-35% reduc- tion in prop values. A McLean County study was referenced that found a McLean County wind farm caused a reduction in real estate taxes as a positive effect on property values. A letter from the Logan County Assessor's office stated an opinion that they could site a-local case that showed no decline in value for property in a wind farm. A property in the Railsplitter Wind Farm sold in 2009 for $155,000. The prop- erty sold again in 2011 for $166,900. It was noted there has not been any complaints of diminished property values in the existing wind farms in the county. Through discussion with Relight attorney Robert Pala- dino, the $5 per acre compen- sation for affected but non- participating landowners, those residing in the V4-mile project area (1/4 mile of a tower), was modified to be $5 per acre per year or $500 annually, which- ever was greater, with "no strings attached". There would be no contractual restriction on the landowners' rights to bring complaints against the com- pany. Aerial application spraying was another issue mitigated. Relight attorney Robert Pala- dino agreed to work with farm- ers on the problem. He explained that the local plant manager would work with affected farm- ers to accommodate spraying by turning off turbines and rotate blades to align with flight pat- tems. Caveat - the accommoda- tion would require several farm- ers arranging for aerial applica- tion spraying to limit turbine shutdowns. One issue Relight will be dealing with is that seed corn production requires aerial applications from two to three times a year.., depending. Not all of these production areas are within the 1/4 mile area dis- cussed, but turbine shutdowns could be required due to appli- cation flight paths. As for minimizingtraffic inter- ference, the Board of Appeals said construction of the existing country wind farms went well. The same should happen in this case as long as there "is good communication". One concern was traffic would be excessive this spring - summer coincid- ing with the start of planting season. There was no finding that the turbines would impede the normal use of property. 4 Hours of construction would be "sunrise to sunset". Resident Relight technician . q would govern operation; living . within the area. The Board vote was split, Chairman Doug Thompson and Judi Graft voted against, and Rick Sheley and Brett Farmer voted in favor. As a result the Logan County Zoning Board of Appeals made no recommenda-  tion to the Logan County Board. Chairman Doug Thompson said this was an unusual situ- " ation, differing from the other wind farm hearings. In this case there was plenty of opposition to the project, but the Board did not hear from one person or taxing body directly involved speaking in favor of it. While the board had made recommen- dations in the past to approve such a project - in this case - no one directly involved spoke in favor of the wind farm... except Relight. There were no landowners that would have the turbines constructed on their property coming forward asking the project be approved. No one from the county asked the proj- ect be approved. No one from the school board, park district, township, or library board pre- sented any statement in favor of the project. No one from the field of construction - equip- ment operators or union work- ers spoke in favor of the project. Mr. Thompson repeated, "This is an unusual situation, this (split) vote reflects those con- cems about this unusual situa- tion". With no recommendation on this project, the board will com- municate what was discussed at the hearings and during delib- erations. The County Board was to hear public testimony and dis- cuss the matter at their sched- uled workshop meeting Thurs- day, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Logan County Courthouse. Due to the paper's printing sched- tile that hearing was held the day the newspaper is printed.A report on that hearing, and an expected vote on Thursday Jan- uary 22, will be reported in the next issue.