Developers get a pass when it comes to putting up wind farms in Stephenson County, but some wonder if it’ll last. After almost two hours of discussion, the county board okayed three zoning amendments to ease restrictions for wind turbine developments.
A packed board room listened as the votes came in as 12-9 in favor of each of the three amendments. It was a culmination of a lengthy meeting that began with County Board Chairman John Blum proceeding cautiously.
He argued it was necessary to change zoning rules to include wind farms in the definition of “agriculture” in order to clean up a long and what he calls “costly” application process.
The amendments take out the special use permit rule and only require a neighborhood meeting for public input.
Some board members said it wasn’t fair to take out the public hearings. But others argued making the wind farm process easier would bring in more revenues and stabilize Stephenson’s strained budget.
But at the forefront of the discussion was the threat of legal action. The county already faces lawsuits over the way it handled two wind farm plans.
On Monday oppositionists presented the county with a petition of more than 16-hundred signatures of people against the amendments. Petition organizers claim a county rule says if they have at least 5% of the land owners signatures, then the board has to approve the change with a super majority, not just a simple majority.
But the Board Chairman John Blum says the definition of “land owners” is too vague.
That means with a 12-9 vote not meeting the super majority requirement, both sides will look at the validity of the petition, and neither is ruling out legal action.
“We’ll be looking into confirming the signatures, I’m sure, ourselves, along with the objectors,” said Terry Groves, Stephenson County Planning Director. “So it should get taken care of one way or another.”
“Now they’re leaving it up to us to get legal counsel in our own dollars to defend ourselves on the rules that they set out in the first place,” said Rick Giles Lancaster Voices members.
Giles says his group will need to meet to consider it’s next step, which could very likely be in a court room.
By: Smita Kalokhe
12 July 2007
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