BLOOMINGTON — Northern McLean County residents agree the proposed McLean County Wind Energy Center would be a "game changer," but whether that is good or bad depends on who is speaking.
About 100 people attended a McLean County Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Tuesday at the Government Center in downtown Bloomington to have their say on a special-use permit being sought for a 100-turbine, 250-megawatt wind farm. Planned for 13,000 acres in Chenoa, Gridley, Lawndale, Lexington and Money Creek townships, it would begin operating before 2021 if the county grants the permit.
The ZBA will reconvene at 6 p.m. Wednesday to hear more pros and cons about the Invenergy project. Tuesday's hearing was the fifth meeting before the ZBA.
Kimberly Brucker of rural Lexington told the panel she lays awake at night worrying about the proposed wind farm, which would be close to her property near the Mackinaw River.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always said that when it is time to bury me, bury me behind the barn because I never want to leave home,” she said. “I am here with the heaviest of hearts.
"I was blindsided by this news," she said. "I was not included in any mailings and yet my neighbors were under contract for months before I even knew about it.”
“I never felt that my home would be compromised for someone else’s economic interest,” she said.
Testifying on behalf of the project was Chenoa resident Joe Bertsche, who came to an agreement with Invenergy to have a turbine and substation on his property.
“This will be a game-changer,” he said. “I have farmed since 1971 and I have dealt with three different wind companies.
"I signed with Invenergy and have been well treated and I have never had any big hassles with them and I don’t anticipate any problems with the windmills.”
Bertsche declined to reveal the financial agreement between himself and the wind farm company, but he said the income from the wind farm would assist him in running the farm and in retirement.
“I am semiretired now, and there is no doubt I will make it,” he said. “But I am worried about other farmers who are cash-renting and barely getting by.”
Most of Tuesday’s hearing centered on the testimony of project opponent Ted Hartke, a former resident of Fithian, which is near Danville. He said he lived in the footprint of an Invenergy project in Vermillion County.
“My family and I suffered from severe sleep deprivation and it caused us to leave our home,” he said, calling a turbine 2,225 feet away from his home a “severe encroachment.”
“For us, it was all about the noise,” he said. “We had thumping and rumbling noises. The noises aren’t that loud, but it seems like that noise is there all of the time.”
Hartke told the board that he had testified in at least five public wind farm hearings in Illinois, but he denied accusations that he was being paid by oil companies or other energy companies for his appearances.