After several days of often emotional testimony last week, the Stephenson County Zoning Board of Appeals late Friday night voted to deny a special-use zoning application from Navitas Energy of Minneapolis, which hopes to build a 35-tower wind farm in the Dakota area.
Even though the Stephenson County Board will have the final say on Nov. 30, Navitas officials were disappointed in the zoning board’s decision. Meanwhile, property owners objecting to the project saw the denial as a positive outcome. The project is one of two wind-farms proposed for Stephenson County.
“I thought the (zoning) board did a really nice job,” said Shelly Moyer of rural Freeport, an adjacent property owner who testified regarding property value concerns. “They listened to everybody.”
The zoning board voted 3 to 1 to deny the application at around 11:30 p.m. Friday, said Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county. The vote came after the board heard testimony from 30 or 40 residents objecting to the project, as well as from Navitas officials who provided evidence in support of the plan.
The first public hearing date for the Navitas application was Nov. 7, but the hearing was continued several times last week to accommodate all testimony, officials say.
Earlier this month, the Stephenson County Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of zoning applications for both of the wind farm projects proposed for this area. The projects include Navitas’ Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, and EcoGrove Wind LLC, which is being proposed for a site northwest of Lena by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group.
John Urish, a zoning board member who voted against the Navitas application, said there were several issues that factored into his decision. They included the significant number of objectors from the Dakota area, and the large number of nearby farmers who did not support the project.
Urish said he was also concerned about the safety of having a wind farm so close to the Dornick Airport on Cedarville Road. The 3,800-acre area in question is just too heavily populated to be a good site for a wind farm, he said.
“It just didn’t look like a good fit,” Urish said.
Zoning Board Chairman Jim Yeoman voted in favor of the application, saying he felt that Navitas met the necessary requirements “within reasonable bounds.”
Steve Cox, an attorney representing Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, said Navitas was disappointed in the zoning board’s decision, but he remains optimistic the County Board “will vote favorably on this issue.” Tom Boswell, an attorney representing about 40 landowners objecting to the project, said his clients were pleased.
The County Board will vote on the Navitas application at a special meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the county courthouse.
By Travis Morse
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