DECATUR – After years of discussion and development, Logan County officials have rejected a plan to construct more than 80 wind turbines in the southern part of the county.
The Meridien Wind Farm, a $400 million project, was rejected Thursday night on a 6-6 vote of the board, one vote short. If it had been approved, construction on the 81 turbines located south and west of Mount Pulaski, stretching from Broadwell to Elkhart, would have begun this spring.
The board listened to more than an hour of public comments, with residents speaking out on both sides of the issue. While some supporting a project that could have brought in an estimated $2.44 million in property taxes during the first year of operation, others questioned the health issues that may be caused by the turbine's noises as well as the legitimacy of Relight US Corp., a Delaware-based company that planned to construct the turbines.
Relight spokesman Robert Paladino acknowledged there were issues with the company's previous owners but said he and the company have done what they could to make the turbines a success in Logan County.
“We've proven we're going to be a good neighbor,” Paladino said.
Chris Martin did not see it that way.
Martin, whose family has owned farmland in the area for seven generations, told the board he was against the turbines and said he was especially stunned when he asked Relight officials whether they would live under the turbines.
“This slick New York lawyer had an answer for everything, but when I asked him and his other friends if they would raise their families under the turbines, they were silent,” he said. “I have a hard time believing a guy selling this product and doesn't believe in it, and we want to hitch our future to him?”
But board Chairman David Helpner, who supported the measure, said before the vote that he and the board have worked hard to learn all they can about the project. While it may be inconvenient for some, he said others make sacrifices for the good of the community, mentioning how he lives near a prison.
“We, as board members, have to take all the advice that we can get on this,” he said. “We try to make the best decisions we can for 30,000 people we have and growing this county.”
The plan had previously been rejected in a Jan. 12 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals in Mount Pulaski by a 2-2 vote.