McLean County ZBA Recommends Approval of Proposed Wind Farm

 Members of The McLean County Zoning Board of appeals deliberated for nearly three hours before a unanimous vote to recommend approval of Invenergy's proposed wind farm. (Image Credit: Breanna Grow)

Members of The McLean County Zoning Board of appeals deliberated for nearly three hours before a unanimous vote to recommend approval of Invenergy's proposed wind farm. (Image Credit: Breanna Grow)

The McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously recommended approval of Invenergy’s special use permit application to build a wind farm northeast of Bloomington-Normal.

The vote followed nearly three hours of deliberation and standards review among board members Tuesday night. The permit is recommended for approval but with certain stipulations.

The full County Board will consider the recommendation at its meeting at 9:00 a.m. on February 20, Room 400 of the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St., Bloomington.

The board can vote to take any number of actions: accept or reject the application, alter the ZBA’s stipulations, or send the application back to the ZBA for more information.

Assistant State’s Attorney Samantha Walley said the County Board is virtually unlimited in what it can do with the ZBA’s recommendation.

What are the Stipulations?

Members of the ZBA agreed to add several stipulations to their recommendation to ensure the proposed project would comply with the County’s zoning ordinance standards.

One stipulation would require Invenergy to follow the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) recommendations for the proposed project.

Walley said the McLean County zoning ordinance requires Invenergy to follow the IDNR recommendations unless the board finds “credible evidence to the contrary.”

The stipulation would require Invenergy to remove a wind turbine sited within one half mile of Henline Creek.

“I’m not sure we’ve heard any evidence other than [the turbine is] really tough to move, and I don’t consider that credible evidence,” said board member Drake Zimmerman.

Invenergy would also have to complete a three-year bat and bird mortality study following project construction; Invenergy had testified a one-year study would be sufficient.

Another stipulation would require Invenergy to change its model for predicted noise levels at nonparticipating residences within the project site.

Noise control engineer Michael Hankard testified that he lowered the predicted noise levels by two decibels based on his experience in the field.

Board member Michael Kuritz argued those two decibels should be added back in to ensure the project complies with Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB) noise limits. Under the stipulation, Invenergy may have to move or remove some turbine sites to remain in compliance with IPCB standards.

Board members deliberated whether to set stricter limits than the IPCB’s based on expert testimony from longtime acoustician Dr. Paul Schomer.

“I have trouble overriding the IPCB standards,” said board member Julia Turner. “As much as I’ve gone through Dr. Schomer’s testimony, I haven’t heard anything conclusive, and I haven’t seen anybody grab hold of it and change regulations.”

The Board agreed that the IPCB standards adopted in the County’s 2016 zoning ordinance are sufficient in this case.