Summit Ridge Energy filed suit June 28 against the town of Wilton and the Monroe County Sanitation, Planning & Zoning and Forestry Department because the town vetoed a conditional use permit to build wind turbines and accessory structures on five properties.
The landowners who granted easements to Summit Ridge Energy are Denis Burken and Mary Corlis, Toby Lee and Joan Greendeer-Lee, William and Marlys Waege, Robert and Dorothy Wilson Sr., Thomas and Pam Prochaska.
The easements allow the energy company to construct General Electric wind turbine(s), transformer(s), access roads and underground collection and fiber optic cable.
The lawsuit states that the town’s veto “exceeded its powers and jurisdiction; was contrary to law, arbitrary, oppressive, and unreasonable, representing its will and not its judgment; and that it could not have been reasonably made based on the evidence before it.”
The suit refers to state statute 66.0401, which limits the ability to restrict solar or wind energy systems. A restriction must serve to preserve and protect public health and safety, not increase the cost of the system or decrease its efficiency, or allow for an alternative system of comparable cost and efficiency.
June 12, Wilton held a public hearing for the conditional use permit, which the town supervisors vetoed 2-1. In favor of the veto were Chairperson Rick Irwin and Supervisor Tim O’Rourke. Supervisor Jan Brandau voted against the veto.
“The Committee itself acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner when it deliberated on and approved the conditional use permit because it did not base its decision on evidence presented at the public hearing and failed to make relevant findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence,” said the town of Wilton veto. “Based on the Committee’s approval of the conditional use permit in the same form as the [permits] it previously approved for Ridgeville and Wells, the Committee’s decision on this [permit] was clearly biased in favor of Summit Ridge Energy.”
The veto said the Sanitation, Planning & Zoning and Forestry Committee approved a permit that was essentially the same as the permit for the towns of Ridgeville and Wells. It said there was no specific discussion or findings related to the how the project would affect the residents of Wilton.
The Committee’s decision was based on a Montfort, WI, windfarm, which is not similar to the proposed project in Wilton, according to the veto. It said the land in Montfort is very flat and there were greater setbacks (limits) between wind turbines and nearby residents.
It also said the Committee did not even consider or discuss the studies and testimony presented by town residents and others at the hearing, which showed the wind turbines would cause serious public health and safety problems. The problems included noise, ice throw and shadow flicker which could occur unless setbacks were increased from residences, occupied buildings, public roads, and property lines.
The conditional use permit application was incomplete, according to the veto. It said there was no map of the area showing parcel boundaries, lease boundaries, wind turbine(s) and accessory structures.
The towns of Ridgeville and Wilton both vetoed the conditional use permit. The town of Wells took no action on the permit, which was then automatically approved. The Monroe County Sanitation, Planning & Zoning and Forestry Department, Ridgeville and Wilton have all been sued by Summit Ridge Energy. William Semann and Myron Brueggeman, both with property in Wells, filed lawsuit against the Sanitation, Planning & Zoning and Forestry Department.
By Keith Zukas
5 July 2007
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