OAKWOOD HILLS – Paul Smith does not want to see any city or village go through the headaches and tribulations Oakwood Hills experienced this summer.
Smith, village president of Oakwood Hills, has called on state lawmakers to revamp the process potential power plant developers must go through before approaching municipal leaders with an offer.
Smith, along with the rest of the Oakwood Hills Village Board, suggested legislators change the law to require power plant projects to receive approval from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency before consideration at the local level.
The process would be similar to landfill projects that must go through the IEPA before approaching a municipality.
“The first thought I had was why are we even dealing with this if we are not 100 percent sure they are going to be able to build it,” Smith recalled about being approached by power plant developers looking to build in Oakwood Hills. “When you have to go through advanced siting requirements like a solid waste facility, there are public hearings. People would’ve known what was going on before it even came to the village.”
Smith told lawmakers in a letter that the $450 million power plant proposal presented to village officials caused “damage to the relationship between the village, its residents and its neighbors that will take some time to repair” and did not want to see other municipalities suffer the same stress.
While requiring power plant proposals to receive IEPA approval first would help, Smith also said local officials could use more training and education to make sure they are properly following procedures.
Oakwood Hills leadership was criticized during the power plant process for potentially circumventing open meeting laws and other procedures.
Smith requested lawmakers implement more mandatory training for local officials.
“We’re not paid politicians like many of the state representatives,” Smith said. “We want to help people in our community and serve the right way and additional training would help us with that.”
He also requested assistance for legislators in obtaining a grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to update village ordinances.
Smith said he has not yet received a reply from legislators on whether they would pursue the changes to state law.