FREEPORT – A controversial homeowner protection plan for residents living near the site of a proposed wind farm may be stalled by Stephenson County’s Planning and Development Committee.
The Committee has already tabled the proposal once because of lawsuits filed by opponents of the wind farms. Committee Chairman Jeff Mikkelsen said he’s unsure whether the plan will be laid over again or whether a vote will be taken at Monday’s committee meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the courthouse.
The issue is not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting, but Mikkelsen plans to open discussion on it anyway.
“I will raise the question and then perhaps we’ll table it again,” Mikkelsen said. “But that’s not clear at this point.”
Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the plan gets laid over for another 30 days. But he’s unsure what will happen Monday. The plan 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. The plan has been the subject of considerable debate, but a final version of the document has not yet been approved.
The lawsuits, filed in late February, have delayed the county’s approval of the protection plan. The suits 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.
Attorneys representing plaintiffs in the lawsuits were unavailable for comment. Court records state that the initial hearing in the Navitas suit is set for 9 a.m. May 17, and the initial hearing in the EcoGrove suit is set for 9 a.m. May 29.
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. The current plan states that the loss of property value would only be compensated if the homeowner sells their home. Critics have argued that the current plan does not adequately protect homeowners.
Kevin Lindquist, a senior project developer for Navitas, said his firm is satisfied with the current plan and would be willing to move forward with the document. The pending lawsuits, however, may have put the plan on the “backburner” for the time being, he said.
By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
31 March 2007
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