CRYSTAL LAKE – More than 800 people gathered at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn Thursday to voice their opposition to a $450 million power plant that could be constructed in Oakwood Hills.
The Oakwood Hills Zoning Committee heard a thorough and detailed presentation from project developers and engineers before the public had an opportunity to question those representatives and voice their concerns.
Developers went over details on how the 430-megawatt, natural gas facility would create virtually no noise pollution, produce “negligible” emissions and have little to no effect on deep-water aquifers after revealing another potential wastewater treatment facility connection.
Engineers previously said 35 percent of the roughly 1.5 million gallons of water per day the facility needs would come from a deep-water aquifer, but after developing a plan with Crystal Lake, Prairie Grove and Cary wastewater treatment facilities, developers said groundwater would only be needed as a backup in emergencies.
Studies have shown the deep-water aquifer could run dangerously low by 2030.
Planners also showed examples of power plants that were as close as .3 miles to a school and 624 feet from a subdivision. Residents have been concerned about the proximity of the plant to the Prairie Grove school and audibly challenged the comparisons when those examples were presented.
The plant would be located off Valley View Road near the Oakwood Hills Village Hall.
When project managers brought up the financial gains the village would receive such as the $1.3 million hosting fee and roughly $500,000 annually in property taxes for schools, members in the crowd responded, “we don’t need your money,” and “keep it.”
Residents have presented studies throughout the process to developers showing property values could drop 3 to 7 percent depending on the proximity of a power plant.
After two hours of waiting, an increasingly restless crowd of residents had a chance to address the board. Philip Bender, superintendent of District 46, was first to the microphone and said the project would harm student health, the water resources and property values.
Bender, who received a standing ovation from the standing-room only crowd, was followed by 33-year resident Linda Davis.
“This massive monstrosity does not fit into what my hometown is,” Davis said. “We need to teach our children and ourselves to practice conservation of energy.”
Resident after resident referenced the village’s own code that outlines environmental protections, property value and resident protections that they argued would be violated if the village approved the project. One resident, John McCarthy, asked if the village was prepared to be sued if it approved the project.
Other residents and people from neighboring communities said the path the board should take is clear if officials want to represent the people and not developers.
“A noisy 10-story power plant with an 18-story smoke stack ... will definitely impact the value of nearby properties,” said Suzanne Ricciardi.
Some residents became emotional about the prospect of the plant, saying they would have to move their young families after trying to start one in Oakwood Hills. No one in the crowd spoke in favor of the plant.
Because of the amount of people wanting to speak, the zoning board will continue the hearing Thursday at the same place and time for residents to voice their opinions. The crowd gave an ovation when they were told the power plant officials would not speak at that meeting.