BELVIDERE – A judge sided with Boone County by rejecting a proposed wind farm on unincorporated land.
In a memorandum filed Thursday, Judge Gerald Grubb ruled that the county justifiably denied a request to construct wind turbines on farm land north of Caledonia and Poplar Grove in Boone County.
“I respect Judge Grubb’s decision because I truly believe he acted on the weight of the evidence,” said County Board Chairwoman Cathy Ward, who voted in favor of wind farms in 2005. “But I’m very disappointed. I continue to support wind farms for many reasons, including the fact they will help our county preserve its precious farmland. It will help our county provide a renewable energy source, and it will help some farmers be prosperous.”
The case goes back to October 2005, when the County Board voted 8-4 against a special-use permit that would allow a group of families to build 15 wind turbines on farmland near Quail Trap and Ramsay roads.
That was the beginning of a back-and-forth legal battle.
In May 2006, Grubb ruled that the board needed to revisit the vote, thanks to what he called a “logically inconsistent” Zoning Board of Appeals recommendation.
The committee had found that the criteria for a special-use permit was met, but denied the proposal anyway.
That led to a new vote later that month, where the proposal passed 5-4.
But Grubb ruled that the meeting for that vote was called improperly, so a third and final board vote was needed.
Ultimately, the board voted down the project, 7-4, in July 2006.
“(The petitioner) did not provide enough evidence to show me that it wouldn’t be hurtful to the surrounding neighbors,” said board member Michelle Courier, who voted down the special use on each occasion.
“I’m not against wind farms. The petitioner did not show me enough evidence for me to feel comfortable with this particular petition,” Courier said.
The Heritage Wind Farm proposal was organized by Wallace and Jean Ramsay, with the families of Wayne and Dorothy Ward, Glen and Eleanor Guthrie and Clarence and Charlotte Rabe.
They billed it as a low-cost producer of electricity that would boost income for landowners and increase the county’s tax base.
Objectors said the turbines would be noisy and unsightly, lower property values and potentially be dangerous to wildlife and planes flying to Poplar Grove Airport.
County code prohibits applicants from resubmitting another special-use request, unless they can provide new evidence or proof of a change of the conditions that led to denial.
But that does not mean new requests for wind farms are out of the question.
“I don’t see any reason to give up. It’s good, clean energy. I can’t understand why people would oppose it. I think we’ll keep trying,” said Wayne Ward.
Wind farm proponents have until Aug. 19 to file an appeal in Elgin appellate courts.
By Kevin Haas
25 July 2007
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