MONTICELLO — The Piatt County Board has declined a special-use permit for a 300-megawatt wind farm proposed for Goose Creek, Sangamon and Blue Ridge townships in the northern part of the county.

“We were elected by the people in our various districts to do what is best for our constituents,” said District 1 board member Jerry Edwards, who voted against the project. “I have heard from a lot of residents of Piatt County and, for the vast majority, this is something they do not want.”

In September, Apex Energy filed an 1,800-page special-use permit application with the county. Developers hoped the project would begin construction in the first quarter of 2023. Apex has already ordered 50 V162-6.2 megawatt turbines from Vestas, a wind-turbine manufacturer.

The board voted 3-2 against the permit. Michael Beem of District 2 and Board Chairman Todd Henricks voted in favor, citing state legislation that takes control away from the county in such decisions as the reason.

District 3’s Paul Foran and District 1’s Kathleen Piatt joined Edwards in voting against the project. District 2’s Gail Jones was not in attendance.

Earlier, the Piatt County Zoning Board of Appeals met for 17 nights to discuss the permit application, listening to testimony from more than 60 witnesses. They forwarded the proposal to the county board without a positive recommendation.

The new state legislation changes the way the wind farms are approved in Illinois, taking away much of the power of county boards regarding such projects.

The legislation is intended to provide counties with “guardrails” for siting wind farms, and would better align the state with its renewable energy goals, sponsors of the legislation said.

It stipulates that the state of Illinois will develop a commission that will oversee and approve wind turbine siting everywhere but Chicago.

Counties would retain the ability to have an up-or-down vote on a project once presented, but if the project is within state guidelines, any county rejection would trigger a lawsuit against the county that would generally favor the wind-turbine company.

Piatt’s vote was the swing vote and, prior to the roll call vote, she had given indications that because of the state legislation, the county had little choice in the matter anyway.

“We are in a tough spot,” she said. “The new law removes the ability of the county to have authority over the decision.”

“I feel like if we vote with our hearts, it will go one way, and if we vote from another way, maybe logically or from a 30,00-foot level, it will go another way,” Foran said. “A lot of good would come to the area from a project like this, but there would also be a lot of bad for the locals. It’s not fair what the state has done, but that’s Illinois.”

Henricks said he voted in favor of the project because of the state legislation.

“After the end of the ZBA hearings, I was as solid as a ‘no’ vote as I could get,” he explained. “There was no way in hell I would have been on the side of 610-foot towers. But then that fat man from Chicago (Gov. J.B. Pritzker) stirred the pot and fast-tracked a committee on a vote on wind turbine and solar legislation in a lame duck session and that led the way for the county board to become irrelevant I will probably be supporting this but it breaks my heart. They are ugly as sin and I am sorry.”

Despite the negative vote, the project is not necessarily dead.

Apex has the right to resubmit the special-use permit, although the county has placed a moratorium on such applications until Sept. 1.

“This isn’t over,” said Apex Clean Energy senior development manager Alan Moore. “We have options. We thought this was a great opportunity for Piatt County to invest in its future, but this isn’t over and we look forward to taking the next steps.”

Prior to the vote, the board approved a $10 million revenue sharing agreement with Apex, that if approved, would have provided the county with $2 million after the approval of building permits, and an additional $8 million once the project went online. That deal is now voided since the project was declined.

Proposed road-use agreements that were finalized earlier this month were also approved, but for now, will not be enacted.

An advisory referendum on wind farms in Piatt County also appears on the April 4 ballot.