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Developers of a wind farm on the McLean-Woodford county line and the landowners who oppose them will have another day in court.
Judge Charles Reynard ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit pending against Invenergy Wind LLC and McLean County officials who approved zoning permits for the project can move forward. He denied several motions filed by the developer and the county that could have dismissed the lawsuit filed in June.
The legal action filed by the nonprofit group Information is Power contends the county and the wind farm company violated the due process rights of landowners who oppose the project.
In March, the County Board granted Invenergy Wind’s application for a special-use permit to build the 100-turbine White Oak Energy Center on the McLean-Woodford county border. The Chicago-based energy firm plans to construct the turbines on 12,200 acres.
The lawsuit was filed against members of the County Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Newly appointed County Board member Walt Clark was not named in the lawsuit.
Phil Dick and Mike Behay with the county’s building and zoning department also were named in the legal action.
Members of Information is Power complained that landowners’ rights were violated because the zoning board made procedural changes that favored the wind energy company and limited the opportunity of opponents to express their views.
White Oaks’ attorney William Wetzel argued Tuesday the opponents did not follow proper legal procedures in their filing of the civil rights allegations. He said his clients were not given adequate time to file an answer to the charges.
“We feel we’re entitled to some reasonable breathing room to respond to all this,” said Wetzel.
Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Hug said County Board members named in the lawsuit were upset because they were not served with notice of the legal action. He also argued the new allegations represent a significant change from the earlier lawsuit asking the court to halt the County Board’s action.
“This is not just a simple mistake made by an attorney – it was done on purpose,” said Hug.
Plaintiff attorney Melissa McGrath denied that she did anything intentionally to delay the case. The county and White Oaks should not have been surprised by the lawsuit, said McGrath.
“Everyone in this courtroom knew we were coming back after the temporary restraining order was denied,” she said.
In his ruling, Reynard said he did not believe the procedural issues required dismissal of the lawsuit. He also agreed with McGrath that the county and Invenergy should have anticipated the additional complaint.
Reynard set an Aug. 31 deadline for the county and the energy firm to respond to the lawsuit. A Sept. 24 hearing is scheduled in the matter.
By Edith Brady-Lunny
24 July 2007
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