Ten Stephenson County property owners objecting to the proposed Lancaster Wind Farm near Dakota filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to invalidate the farm’s special-use permit and prevent the project from moving forward.
The plaintiffs include David and Kris Parrish, Don and Rita Koch, Rick and Joyce Giles, Carl and Sharon Wise, and Jerry and Marcia Maize, all of whom are adjacent property owners to the proposed wind farm. Listed as defendants in the suit are the Stephenson County Board, County Board Chairman John Blum, the county Zoning Board of Appeals, Zoning Board Chairman Jim Yeoman, Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, Navitas Energy Inc., and Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica, S.A.
The suit makes a number of allegations regarding health and safety risks posed by the wind farm, legal concerns related to the special-use permit, the zoning hearing, and other issues.
Charles Muscarello, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said of particular concern are what he sees as numerous health and safety issues raised by the proposed wind farm. The suit alleges that the farm would subject properties to a shadow flicker and reduction of light, a strobe effect, a level of noise in violation of the Illinois Pollution Control Board, a loss in property value, and that the project would cause a hazard due to its proximity to the Dornink Airport.
“These are very large towers at very short setbacks,” Muscarello said. “(The plaintiffs) are seeking to invalidate what they see to be an invalid and egregious special-use permit.”
The suit also alleges that the zoning hearing was not handled properly, in that people objecting to the project were not allowed to cross-examine certain witnesses whose testimonial reports were entered into the record. The suit also questions the legality of the special use permit and the manner in which notice was given of the public hearing.
“The applicant was preparing an application for over three years and the residents only had a few weeks to make a case against it,” Muscarello said.
Blum said Wednesday he had not yet seen the lawsuit so it would be difficult to comment. However, Blum pointed out that the county was “very meticulous” in making sure all of the rules of due process were followed at the public hearing. He said he believes the court would find that to be the case if the suit makes it that far.
Kevin Lindquist, a senior project developer for Navitas, said his company and the county have handled this process appropriately. He also said that lawsuits filed in the past against wind farm projects have “always failed.”
“We complied with all the requirements of the ordinance,” Lindquist said.
Plaintiffs Rita and Don Koch deferred all comments to Muscarello. However, Ron Dornink, whose airport on Cedarville Road was mentioned in the suit, said he supports the efforts of the plaintiffs in filing suit.
Right now, Dornick said his focus has been on talking
with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine if the wind turbines are too close to his airport. Dornink, who has owned the airport since 1953, said he has taught nearly 750 people how to fly at the air strip.
“As I’ve said before in some of my comments, it’s entirely too close to my airport even though it’s kind of left in the hands of the FAA to review each tower in the close proximity of my airport,” Dornink said.
In November, the County Board approved the special-use zoning applications to allow two companies to establish wind farms in this area. The projects include EcoGrove Wind LLC, a wind farm proposed for a site northwest of Lena by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group; and Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, a farm proposed for the Dakota area by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis.
The companies will have to meet a number of requirements before building permits will be allowed, including the creation of a homeowner protection plan which is currently being discussed by county officials.
An initial hearing on the lawsuit has been set for 9 a.m. May 29 in local court, Muscarello said.
Journal-Standard reporter Diana Roemer contributed to this story.
By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
28 February 2007
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