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Vermilion, Champaign Counties Near Wind Farm Agreements

It will likely be at least next week before the Champaign County Zoning Board of Appeals signs off on plans for a wind farm, and forwarding the proposal to the County Board.

The ZBA is scheduled to meet Thursday night, and Planning and Zoning Director John Hall says two of three agreements - a county road agreement and one for reclamation - have been reached.

But he says they haven't been sent to the board, and Hall says a state law requires no more than a 30-day window between the ZBA and county board meetings to discuss wind farm proposals. Hall says having another week to meet would work to the zoning board's advantage.

"Given that there are two large documents that still need to be considered, I think it would be difficult to take final action this Thursday," he said. "So, final action probably would be possible, but we need to continue anyhow, and frankly, we haven't yet got a copy of the township road agreement."

Hall says the zoning board will likely schedule another hearing for next Thursday, October 20th, prior to the 7 p.m. Champaign County Board meeting. He says that would meet the state's demands for the county board to take up the wind farm proposal by its November 17 meeting. The ZBA has been meeting on the plan since late August.

If the Vermilion County Board signs off on a road agreement with Chicago-based Invenergy this week, County Board Chair Jim McMahon says the company could begin the initial work on the county's 104 turbines as soon as Monday, starting just northeast of Kickapoo State Park. Thirty of the turbines are targeted for Champaign County.

McMahon says the lack of zoning in his county has allowed authorities to avoid other agreements that Champaign County is dealing with now.

"154 people have signed up and said 'we want wind turbines. 104 of them did get wind turbines," he said. "And without zoning, the county board has no input and should have no input without zoning on what they do with their land, unless it was an illegal action."

McMahon says the disadvantage of having no zoning is that Vermilion County can't increase setbacks on the property of anyone concerned about the noise or shadows caused by wind turbines. The Vermilion County Board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Invenergy's wind farm is expected to start operations by early 2013.

UPDATE: Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon says the board unanimously approved the road agreement Tuesday night, and county officials plan to meet with Invenergy later this week with hopes of starting wind farm construction by Monday.

Categories: Energy, Government, Politics