County Board Approves Solar, Wind Farms

 District 1 Representative Don Cavallini asked fellow McLean County Board members to table Invenergy's special use permit application for a proposed wind farm until a later date. (Image credit: Breanna Grow)

District 1 Representative Don Cavallini asked fellow McLean County Board members to table Invenergy's special use permit application for a proposed wind farm until a later date. (Image credit: Breanna Grow)

Four renewable energy projects will move forward in McLean County following decisions from the McLean County Board.

On Tuesday morning, Board members approved Cypress Creek Renewables, LLC’s three 2-megawatt solar developments in Arrowsmith and Downs as well as Invenergy’s proposed 250-megawatt wind farm near Chenoa and Lexington.

While just two board members opposed the solar projects, the board was nearly split on the wind farm, voting 10-8 to approve Invenergy’s special use permit application with the County Zoning Board of Appeals’ added stipulations.

Five rural residents, during public comment, made a final plea to board members to oppose or impose restrictions to the project, citing concerns over property values, noise levels, environmental impacts and hazards to area pilots, among other issues.

A few members tried unsuccessfully to halt or add stipulations to the application’s passing.

District 1 Representative Don J. Cavallini made a motion to table the board’s decision until a later date, giving board members time to form a committee on fair compensation for non-participating residents near the project.

“Everybody seems to win…but the one group that doesn’t seem to come out here are the people who have lived in this area for years,” said Cavallini. “What are they going to gain?”

State’s Attorney Jason Chambers warned tabling the application would push a decision past the County’s 30 day limit, launching a new round of public hearings, with the County’s paid public notice required.

“This tabling motion is nothing more than a delaying tactic to kill this [project],” said District 2 Representative Paul Segobiano, arguing 39 of public hearings over seven days were enough to fully vett Invenergy and its application.

Cavallini withdrew the motion.

District 10 Representative Chuck Erickson introduced a separate motion to send the application back to the ZBA with further direction on noise levels and turbine setbacks discussed during public hearings, though he wasn’t sure what specific direction to give.

District 9 Representative Erik Rankin called the move “Politics 101.”

“When you don’t have enough votes it’s called delay,” he said. “Have the gall to vote up or down on the issue. That's what you're here to do.”

Erickson also withdrew his motion.

A motion by District 1 Representative Catherine Metsker to pass Invenergy’s application with several additional stipulations fell just short of approval with 10 opposing votes.

Metsker’s proposed amendments addressed concerns over what she and other members felt to be questionable choices on Invenergy’s part, including adding two decibels to its noise level model of the project and siting turbines near the Mackinaw River and Henline Creek against Illinois Department of Natural Resources recommendations.

Metsker, Erickson and Cavallini voted against the final motion to approve the application as recommended by the ZBA.

What’s Next:

A spokesperson for Cypress Creek said once the company has the necessary zoning and building permits and utility agreements in place, construction of the solar farms will take between four and five months to complete.

Invenergy estimated construction on its wind farm will begin next year, with the operation fully running in 2020.