The issue: Stephenson County Board considers zoning revision for wind farms
Our view: If this policy is needed, which is questionable, the timing is bad
Members of the Stephenson County Board are scheduled to meet tonight and discuss a recommendation on a proposal to revise the A-1 zoning category to allow wind farms as a permitted use.
Last Thursday, members of the county Zoning Board of Appeals reviewed the revision and voted unanimously to reject the idea.
As proposed, a developer seeking to erect a wind farm on property zoned for agricultural use would submit plans to the county zoning department.
Plans would then be evaluated to meet setback requirements and other criteria by the county zoning department, two public hearings would be hosted by the developer and neighboring property owners would be notified. Assuming all the requirements are met, the developer would be permitted to proceed with construction of the wind farm.
Terry Groves, head of the county zoning department, is on record indicating the agency has been considering the revision for quite some time.
If that is indeed the case, and we have no reason to doubt Mr. Groves, then the timing of this proposal could not be worse and should be delayed.
Acting now, at a time when Stephenson County is being sued by two property owner groups opposed to proposed wind farm developments, subverts the public process. Adopting this proposal would create an opportunity for the developers to withdraw plans for the two wind farms now being considered, thereby negating the lawsuits. These same developers, if the revision is adopted by the county, would then resubmit plans for the wind farms and public input on the process would be limited to hearings, hosted by the developers and attended by county officials who are not answerable to the ballot box.
If, as Special Assistant State’s Attorney Frank Cook has stated, the intention of Stephenson County is to “streamline” the wind farm application process, and, as Mr. Groves has indicated, the proposal has been under consideration for quite some time, then there is no urgency on County Board members to adopt this revision at this time.
Doing so creates the appearance by County Board members of attempting to side-step public input on the current wind farm proposals.
Whether in favor or against wind farms, everyone should support a system of government that respects the public process. County Board members rejected the opinion of the Zoning Board of Appeals in overruling a recommendation not to issue a special use permit to Navitas Energy.
Last Thursday, the appeals board spoke with a unanimous voice in recommending to the County Board that the proposed revision of the A-1 zoning category should not be approved.
County Board members need to respect the public process and listen to the appeals board.
10 July 2007
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