DIXON – Concerned Lee County residents spent most of Wednesday night’s wind hearing taking apart an appraiser’s report.
Michael Crowley was hired by Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power to study the effects of its planned turbines on nearby home values. Mainstream’s wants to build 53 turbines in Hamilton and East Grove townships, in the southwestern area of the county.
At the last meeting of the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals, Crowley was cross-examined by Rockford attorney Rick Porter, who is representing Hamilton Township and a number of private landowners fighting the wind farm.
Wednesday, residents got a chance to question the Bureau County appraiser.
Robin Ackerson asked Crowley what the “highest and best use” of the land in question was. That is a term Crowley used in his report to identify the use of the area for proposed wind farms.
Crowley determined that it is agricultural. Ackerson pointed out there are families living in the area, and asked why that wasn’t taken into consideration.
Crowley acknowledged there are 70 residential properties. Although he said residential use is permitted in the area, agricultural is the “highest and best use.”
Bob Logan, Franklin Grove village president, questioned Crowley extensively. At a previous hearing, Crowley testified that he is being paid $12,000 by Mainstream for his studies and for his testimony at hearings in Bureau, Lee and Whiteside counties.
Logan asked Crowley to confirm that he previously testified he has used the same report with revisions 12 times in the last 10 years. Crowley said he had.
“Have your conclusions changed in any material way since you conducted this survey?” Logan asked.
Crowley said they had not.
Under Logan’s questioning, he also stuck to his assertion that there is no evidence that the proposed wind farm would hurt nearby property values.
Steve Robery of rural Franklin Grove asked Crowley how many real estate transactions he reviewed for his study.
“That is not in the scope of my analysis,” Crowley said.
Robery asked him to confirm that his analysis was not based on sales data, which Crowley did.
“Did any of the appraisers that you interviewed provide you with actual appraisals of property on the market near wind farms?” Robery asked.
They did not, Crowley said, adding that he did not solicit those appraisals.
The zoning board will meet Tuesday to continue hearings. It is not expected to make a decision on the proposal for months.
The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon. The meeting is expected to last 2 1/2 hours.
The board will resume its public hearing for Mainstream Renewable Power’s application for turbines in the southwestern area of the county.
For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to www.leecountyil.com or call 815-288-5676.