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CLINTON — A decision on a controversial DeWitt County wind farm proposal will not come until February or March.

Lenexa, Kan.-based Tradewind Energy Inc. filed a special-use permit request last month for Alta Farms Wind Project II, but DeWitt County officials want to approve a new comprehensive land-use plan and review the county's solar-power ordinances first.

The DeWitt County Regional Planning Commission met Tuesday night, but did not hear testimony on the proposed $300 million project expected to erect up to 68 wind turbines across 12,000 acres in Barnett, Clintonia and Wapella townships.

Commission Chairman David Steward announced the timeline after talking with County Board Chairman Dave Newberg.

In November, the commission will have a public hearing on the comprehensive land-use plan prior to its Nov. 20 meeting. The committee then will vote on the plan and forward a recommendation on the special-use permit to the county's Zoning Board of Appeals.

“The reasoning behind this is that the fiscal year ends in November and the county has already committed money to finalizing the comprehensive plan this fiscal year, so they would like us to finish that first,” Steward said.

By doing that, it would set up a schedule in which the County Board could vote on the comprehensive plan before the end of the fiscal year.

In December, the commission will review the current solar farm ordinances and then schedule a review of the Tradewind Energy special-use permit request after the first of the calendar year, most likely in February or March.

After reviewing the application, the commission will determine if it meets the criteria for a special-use permit and forward a recommendation to ZBA. The ZBA also will consider the application and forward the application to the full County Board with a recommendation.

Earlier this year, Tradewind announced plans to submit the plan in the late spring, but potential changes in the county's wind farm ordinances slowed their progress. Most recently, the company hoped to begin construction in the spring and have it online by 2020.

The farm is expected to provide no more than 290 megawatts of power.

Tradewind's paperwork says the project will yield 254 construction jobs and 21 permanent jobs and a total of more than $35 million in property tax revenue over its lifespan. 

Opponents already have fought hard to strengthen the county’s wind farm ordinance code, gaining some victories, but losing several others, including limiting the heights of the turbines.

“In reviewing Tradewind's application, it is clear that it does not meet the criteria for a special-use permit in DeWitt County,” said DeWitt County resident Andrea Rhoades, one of the wind farm's opponents.

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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