In the wake of two lawsuits filed last week, the Stephenson County Planning and Development Committee voted Monday to lay over a homeowner protection plan related to the local wind farms.
Last month, committee members discussed a draft version of the plan, which is designed to set up terms by which the wind-farm companies would compensate adjacent homeowners who experience a loss in property value due to the wind towers. A final version of the plan has not yet been approved.
At Monday night’s meeting, committee chairman Jeff Mikkelsen recommended the committee lay over the plan issue until next month because of the lawsuits.
The suits, which were filed last week, seek to invalidate the special-use permits that would allow two companies to build wind farms in Stephenson County. One of the lawsuits was filed by 10 area property owners objecting to Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, which is proposed for the Dakota area by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis. The other lawsuit – filed by 28 objecting property owners – seeks to prevent the EcoGrove Wind LLC wind farm from being built northwest of Lena by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group.
“I think given the situation (and) the pending litigation, it made sense to lay it over,” said Steve Cox, an attorney representing Lancaster Wind Farm. He declined to comment on how the lawsuits will impact the wind-farm projects. “I think everybody’s in an evaluation mode at this point.”
As it stands now, the plan only covers homes that are within 2,000 feet of a wind tower, but this figure has not yet been finalized. According to the current plan, the loss of property value would only be compensated if the homeowner sells their home.
If a home sells for less than 110 percent of its fair cash value as reflected on the 2007 tax bill, the wind-farm company in question would make up the difference for the homeowner, the document states. The plan also includes guidelines related to setbacks and other aspects of the project.
Rick Porter, the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the EcoEnergy lawsuit, said he remains firmly opposed to the current version of the homeowner protection plan.
“The plan that has been proposed so far provides absolutely no property value guarantee,” Porter said.
Rick Giles of rural Freeport, an adjacent property owner to the planned Navitas wind farm, said he is “not even close” to being satisfied with the current homeowner protection plan. Only protecting homes within 2,000 feet of a tower is not enough, he said.
“They just want to get this out of the way because it’s a requirement,” said Giles, who is also a plaintiff in the Navitas lawsuit. “They don’t care if there is any coverage or not.”
By Travis Morse
5 March 2007
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