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Crundwell comparison comes up in wind talks

Opponents note raft of information Mainstream still has not provided

DIXON – An attorney for the opponents of a proposed wind farm Tuesday urged the Lee County Board to reject it.

Attorney Rick Porter, who represents Hamilton Township and a number of landowners, told board members that the application of Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power fell far short of the county’s zoning requirements.

His inclusion of a photo of former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell in a handout, however, offended some board members.

Above the photo, the caption read, “This community cannot afford any more blind trust and instead must require the applicant to submit a complete application before the public hearing, as required by statute and its own ordinances.”

Crundwell’s name wasn’t mentioned in the handout, but it wasn’t needed. After the city scandal erupted last year, she probably is the most recognizable Dixonite other than Ronald Reagan.

Board member Wes Morrissey, D-Amboy, said it was “quite a leap” to compare the Crundwell scandal to the proposed wind farm – known as the Green River project.

“You hurt your case,” Morrissey said.

Board Vice Chairman John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, agreed, saying he found the photo “truly offensive.”

Porter defended it, saying the point was that the county shouldn’t simply rely on Mainstream’s statements.

“You can’t blindly trust,” he said. 

After Porter’s presentation, Mainstream’s attorney, Doug Lee, chose not to say anything in response. 

“The zoning board has not completed its work [on Mainstream’s proposal],” he said. “We feel that it’s not appropriate to comment further on the specifics of the application while the zoning board is doing its work.”

In his presentation, Porter said Mainstream must prove that its proposed special use would not negatively affect surrounding areas. As it is, he said, a lot of information on the wind farm remains missing.

“There is still not a final site plan for the turbines,” the attorney said. “We still don’t know the exact number of turbines. We still don’t have a model of turbine selected. Because the applicant hasn’t chosen the model of turbine, it can’t perform accurate shadow flicker, noise or environmental studies.”

The company, he said, has yet to turn in a road-use plan.

During the hearings, he said, the public was overwhelmingly against the wind farm. According to his handout, not one landowner, other than those who have leases for turbines, spoke in favor of the project.

In particular, he noted the company said it plans to post $13,721 in the case that the company eventually decommissions the turbines. Many residents want the company to provide financial assurances to take down the turbines once they stop operating.

He said he has had experts look at the proposed wind farm, and they figured it would cost millions to decommission the turbines.

In a Sept. 4, 2012, hearing, Porter asked John Martin, then a Mainstream project manager, whether he knew the cost of decommissioning per turbine.

“At this moment, no, we do not,” Martin said. 

The Zoning Board of Appeals meets again Tuesday to continue its decision-making process on the proposed wind farm in southwestern Lee County.

The ZBA held hearings for 8 months on the wind farm, which, officials say, will consist of 53 turbines.

Public invited

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the County Board meeting room on the third floor of the Old County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The board will begin the decision-making process on the wind farm proposed by Mainstream Renewable Power.

If needed, other meetings are scheduled for the same time and place April 24, 25, 26, 29 and 30.

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