About 150 people gathered for a public hearing Tuesday night to voice their opinions on the Lancaster Wind Farm project proposed for the Dakota area.
That project is one of two wind-farms proposed for the county that call for building as many as 113 wind turbines on two rural sites.
The Stephenson County Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing, held at Highland Community College, allowed the zoning board to consider a special-use zoning application from Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, which hopes to build a 35-tower wind farm on the 3,800-acre Lancaster site.
The Stephenson County Planning Commission on Monday recommended approving special-use zoning applications for the Lancaster farm and one proposed by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group. Both firms applied for permits in October.
Tuesday’s hearing for the Navitas project was conducted much like a trial, with opposing attorneys on hand to represent Navitas and a group of about 40 landowners who are opposed to the project.
Attorney Tom Boswell, representing the landowners, made a motion asking the zoning board to continue the hearing for 14 or 21 days so objectors could have more time to prepare and secure expert witnesses. Boswell argued that landowners only had two weeks to prepare, while Navitas had much more time.
“There is just simply not enough time for this to be a fair hearing,” Boswell said. “If you do not grant this continuance, all you are going to get is (Navitas’) side of the story.”
Steve Cox, an attorney representing Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, said the statutory requirements for notifying the public were met by Navitas. The firm brought expert witnesses to testify Tuesday at a “substantial expense,” and it would not be fair to Navitas to postpone the hearing, Cox said.
However, the zoning board voted 4-to-1 to deny the continuance motion.
Kevin Lindquist, senior project developer for Navitas, gave a powerpoint presentation at the hearing, outlining the Navitas project. He was also called as a witness before the zoning board, and was questioned on a variety of topics, including concerns about wind tower noise and setback requirements.
Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said more than
20 objectors to the Navitas project were expected to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.
The hearing for the EcoEnergy farm will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Stephenson County Farm Bureau. Once the zoning board makes a recommendation on both applications, the projects will go to the full County Board for consideration at a special meeting Nov. 30.
By Travis Morse
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