County approves permits for MET towers

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CLINTON — In spite of efforts by a group of residents opposed to the planned wind farm, on June 21, the county board approved two special use permit applications filed by Tradewind Energy.

The applications will permit Tradewind to erect two meteorological testing towers (MET) in northern DeWitt County.  Tradewind is moving forward with its AltaFarms project near Waynesville.  A second phase of the project involves an area near Wapella.

Retired structural engineer Don MacIsaac told the board during the June 21 meeting that he felt the proposed testing towers did not meet design requirements in the state statute.  He also said the wrong part of the statute was being used to approve their design.

“The code section the Tradewind application gives for the met towers …is titled ‘radio and television towers’ and is not applicable to the design of the meteorological towers,” MacIsaac told board members.

He said the appropriate code was “utility and miscellaneous,” which lists towers as a general classification.

The meteorological testing towers will gather atmospheric data Tradewind will use in determining the suitability of a site for a wind energy generation farm.

DeWitt County zoning supervisor Angie Sarver said she talked to a representative at the Illinois Capital Development Board.  Sarver said Lisa Mattingly, administrator of that agency, told her the state would accept the design of the towers under the act providing the towers were approved by a licensed structural engineer.

MacIsaac said his opposition to the special use permits did not have anything to do with the application of the engineer’s stamp but with the wrong code being applied in order to approve the towers.

“Codes are specifically written and titled for specific applications,” MacIsaac said.

MacIsaac also said the engineer had not provided the county the appropriate documentation.  

“It should have been provided to the zoning board so it could be reviewed by the county engineer,” MacIsaac said.

The special use permits came to the county board with unanimous approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

MacIsaac asked the board to involve the DeWitt County State’s attorney.  When board member Melonie Tilley asked state’s attorney Dan Markwell if he thought the application was “within the law,” Markwell said he was not asked to review the applications.

Tilley suggested the board table the vote until Markwell could examine the situation or to send the matter back to the ZBA.

The vote to table failed, Tilley the only board member to vote in favor.

The board approved both special use permits for the Tradewind meteorological testing towers.