This was the
fourth in a series of public hearings held by the Logan County Zoning
Board of Appeals. Horizon Wind Energy has requested conditional use
of parcels zoned for agriculture, where the turbines would be placed. The company would erect 29 wind turbines in Orville and Eminence
townships for Rail Splitter Wind Farm.
Porter, who represented those in opposition to the wind farm, wasted
no time in stating his displeasure with county officials. The
lawyer was given a one-hour time limit to question Horizon Wind
Energy's project manager Bill Whitlock. In response Porter said, "I
strongly object to a time limit on my cross-examination."
Before the lawyers
got started, Logan County highway engineer Brett Aukamp provided
details of the road agreement that the Logan County Board accepted
from the wind farm earlier this month. Would-be road improvements
funded by the wind company are estimated at $950,000. The agreement
states that $150,000 would be held in escrow at all times.
Porter made it a
point to question why the board had already moved on this when
zoning hadn't been approved for the project.
Porter that the road project is separate from the zoning issue, and he
was present as a courtesy to everyone to advise them on his
As Whitlock sat
for cross-examination from Porter, it was obvious the night would be
a long, drawn-out one filled with verbal sparring.
with small points. Details quickly bogged down the proposal in
One of the issues
Porter brought up was that Rail Splitter Wind Farm LLC is a "paper
corporation." He pushed to make it understood that a limited
liability corporation is formed to protect principals from any
personal liability in the event that there is a financial problem.
that LLCs are common in the business world.
Porter asked how
Horizon could state that Rail Splitter Wind Farm is a $150 million corporation, when to date only Whitlock was employed, and no assets
had been procured. He used this to say that the corporation, thus,
could not provide financial guarantees for the project.
did not agree with Porter's assessment.
As he progressed,
Porter debated such things as the definition of a building.
He asked whether
red or white lights would be placed on towers. Which, Whitlock said,
was an FAA decision and not Horizon's.
conducted by Porter spent a great deal of time on a previous Horizon
wind farm project just north of Logan County, called Town Groves. Porter asked Whitlock if, in fact, he did not have several
complaints against that wind farm from area residents.
stating he was aware of perhaps two or three out of 250 families in
to list the complaints as "many complainants."
to stress that it was two or three out of 250 area residents.
At several points
Porter asked Whitlock if certain information would have ever been
presented to the board if he (Porter) had not disclosed it.
continually retorted that Porter did not discover anything and that,
in fact, the information Porter was talking about was either in the
Horizon report or in the supplemental report given to all board
Porter spent a
great deal of time questioning the true value to the residents in
Logan County of having a portion of the wind farm erected. He asked
Whitlock what the $1,000-a-year rent to landowners would be in 30
years, the length of the agreement.
When Porter pushed
that the dollar would not be worth as much in three decades,
Whitlock said that was why the cost-of-living adjustment was part
of the agreement.
disputed the figures on tax dollars that would be made by local
governments, since the turbines would be on an accelerated
depreciation schedule, thus making future tax dollars far less.
Whitlock said he stood by the figures given to the board.
There was also a
heated dispute about the true final positioning of the turbines.
Porter stated that Horizon had the opportunity to move final sites
"anywhere you damn well please."
stating that there could be some movement due to situations and
that there may be a "shift" in some of the final positions.
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After more then two hours, Porter
brought up the issue that might well be the crux of the complaint.
He asked Whitlock if Horizon would enter into an agreement
guaranteeing property values to all within the footprint of the wind
reiterated that they would not.
When time had
expired, the zoning board told Porter to wrap up his examination. It was
10 minutes later when they again asked him to finish. Porter once
again stated his displeasure to the board: "I am still not finished,
yet for some reason there is some rush to judgment."
He also disagreed
with the time frame for closing statements, as well as again
dissenting to his cross-examination being considered over. "I have
never heard of a closing statement being made in the middle of a
procedure," he said. "How can you expect me to have a closing argument before
all the evidence is in? You don't know your argument until the
evidence is in."
questioned the "scruples" of the zoning board, a voice in the crowd
shouted out, presumably to zoning board members, "How much did your
bank account grow?"
wanted it on the record that they had no problem with time
limitations and were ready for closing remarks.
Before closing for
the evening, board members decided to allow additional statements
from the public.
One woman asked
the board if she would be allowed to cross-examine Mr. Whitlock, but
was advised she would not.
One couple, Ed and
Nancy Knittel of Saybrook, wanted the crowd to know their
experience living among wind turbines. Mrs. Knittel stated that if
they knew now what they didn't know earlier, that they would have
never built their home where they did. Calling the situation "devastating,"
she said that they can see wind turbines out windows on all sides of
their home. "I don't want this to happen to others," she said.
asked the Knittels if they had been in discussions with Horizon
on helping with landscaping costs to remedy their complaint. They said
yes, but an agreement wasn't made. When asked for the record what
the amount was for the landscaping they had submitted to Horizon, the Knittels said $386,000.
lady, Rene Taylor of Ellsworth, testified that the turbines have been
a disruptive force on her family and that final placements of the
turbines and power generating station were not where Horizon had
initially told them they would be.
then asked Taylor the value of her home, which she stated at
$185,000. They asked for the amount of the lawsuit she had filed and
she replied, $750,000.
two parties that objected to the wind farm was Emden resident Brent
Hellman. Hellman favorably said that he couldn't understand how
anyone could expect property values to be guaranteed when so many
factors are involved in appraisal. He recalled purchasing a farm
many years ago that two years later, due to economic conditions, was
worth only 40 percent of what he had paid for it.
Hellman went on to
say that the landscape of the area always changes. From cell towers
to pipelines, the landscape changes and will probably continue to
As 10:30 p.m.
approached, zoning board members admitted that there was no way to
finish remarks from those who wished to speak, plus have closing
arguments from the lawyers of both sides. The meeting was adjourned
to July 1.
[By MIKE FAK]