People objecting to the current wind ordinance believe that the windfall of money coming to Morgan County has not been fully explained to the public.
Mike Woodyard of the Morgan County Watching and the Ad Hoc Citizens For Property Rights says that the money coming from taxes on the windmills that would come to the county would only be temporary and not permanent income to the taxing bodies of Morgan County. “One of the members of the committee looked through the tax code and discovered that the wind farm tax, which is the revenue that the county, schools, and road districts would get – the provision actually sunsets in 2021. The tax actually goes away unless it’s renewed by the General Assembly. There will be no additional revenue to Morgan County from the proposed wind farms.”
Woodyard believes that the General Assembly won’t renew the tax and instead will push for a different approach. “They may well not renew the tax provision and set up a similar situation to the State of Ohio where the state government would take control and the county ordinances won’t have precedent. You would have a State of Illinois citing board and they will lay out the parameters of wind farms. You may very well have the legislature of the State of Illinois laying out the laws for this similar to what they have in Ohio.”
Woodyard says that Illinois may move to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes or PILOT program from the state, where the county would receive a one time payment only and not receive any additional income.
Woodyard also explained another sticking point with his committee and the board. Woodyard believes that Morgan County Commissioner Chairman Brad Zeller and Regional Planning Commissioner Dusty Douglas are confused about the language when it comes to who gets to approve the permitting process for the project. “I think where the confusion lies is that Mr. Douglas and Mr. Zeller are looking at this Plans Commission and confusing it with a separate statute, which is the Illinois Platte statute that covers subdivisions. If someone wanted to put a subdivision in Morgan County, there is a 5-member advisory board that is also referred to as a Plans Commission but it is limited in scope to just subdivisions. That’s all that advisory board does, not wind farms.”
Woodyard hopes that the 2009 ordinance will retain the Regional Planning Commission as the permitting board versus the current draft’s hand-picked board by the chairman. The 2009 ordinance retains some locally elected officials that Woodyard believes are still beholden to voters of the county. He also believes moving to the commission-appointed board would be un-democratic and not provide equal representation to those who aren’t going to participate in the wind project.
The Morgan County Commissioners are slated to make a final vote on the draft ordinance on July 1st.