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Boone awaits judge's ruling on wind farm disagreement

BELVIDERE – A judge is expected to decide by the end of the month whether the Boone County Board was right to kill a proposed wind farm north of Caledonia and Poplar Grove.

Judge Gerald Grubb heard final arguments June 15 in the long-running case. His ruling is scheduled for July 30.

The wind-farm project is being spearheaded by Wallace Ramsay of Caledonia, and calls for wind turbines as tall as 400 feet.

The case dates to October 2005, when the board denied a special-use permit, 8-4, to erect 15 turbines near Quail Trap and Ramsay roads.

But in May 2006, Grubb found problems with the decision. He said the Zoning Board of Appeals had been “logically inconsistent” when it recommended that the County Board deny the special-use permit.

As a result, Grubb ordered the board to reconsider the project.

That decision led to a special May 2006 County Board meeting. This time, the board changed its mind and approved the wind farm by a 5-4 vote. But again Grubb voided the decision, saying the meeting had been improperly convened.

That led to another flip-flop in July 2006, when the County Board denied the project 7-4.

“It would be disappointing if he overturned the county’s decision,” said Aaron Funfsinn of Poplar Grove, a member of the Boone County Alliance Against Intrusive Energy. The board “already turned it down once, and they turned it down again after that.”

Grubb could grant developers the needed special-use permit to construct the windmills.

Developers boast the wind-farm project as a low-cost producer of electricity that will boost income for landowners and increase the county’s tax base. Objectors say it’s a threat to wildlife, pilots flying into Poplar Grove Airport and an overall eyesore that will lower property values.

“The board, in weighing all of the facts that were present at the ZBA hearings, made a proper decision,” said State’s Attorney Jim Hursh, who represents the county in the case.

Both parties will be able to appeal the judge’s decision.

By Kevin Haas

Rockford Register Star

9 July 2007