Please be advised that my clients, Larry Gerdes and Steven Gerdes, asked that I draft a correspondence explaining the events of Feb. 17, at the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals.
My clients contacted me after learning that a notice was issued on Jan. 28, 2011, regarding a request by Walnut Ridge Wind LLC to extend the conditional use permit that was awarded to it on Aug. 26, 2008. In the interest of providing Bureau County with complete, accurate and unbiased information from neighboring landowners, I contacted various potential expert witnesses to appear at that hearing. These witnesses over the past several years have studied the negative impact that wind farms have on property values, the negative noise and health impacts, the inaccuracy of decommissioning plans and the need for the posting of sufficient performance bonds, and addressing the lack of a positive net effect on carbon emissions. I also contacted various landowners that presently live among wind turbines who agreed to come and share, at their own expense, their experiences with noise, shadow flicker and other nuisances.
We also discovered that the underlying conditional use permit itself was void because it was not issued in a timely manner, and the notice for the extension hearing did not comply with the Bureau County ordinances. We therefore drafted a Motion to Terminate the request for extension.
I telephoned the zoning secretary and was informed that we would merely sign-in that evening to speak and cross-examine witnesses. I also asked whether we could acquire a continuance of the 2/17 hearing because I would be out of the country that night and several of our experts also had conflicts. The secretary said that there would be no opportunity to receive such a continuance. Therefore, we did our best to put together witnesses and draft the appropriate motion in a short amount of time (approximately one week). I also acquired the agreement of my partner, Tom Boswell, to appear on behalf of the Gerdeses in my absence. Many others in the Bureau County community also went to significant effort to prepare to speak or attend the meeting. Even though it was not required, we sent a our Motion to Terminate to the county and to the last known address of the wind turbine company the day before the hearing.
After scrambling to get substitute counsel, prepare our case, fly in experts, and line-up other witnesses and interested parties, I was very surprised to learn that the hearing did not occur on Feb. 17, because the applicant did not bring an attorney. That night we even agreed to stay the Motion, in order to hear from the people of Bureau County, but the zoning board refused to start the hearing because the applicant did not bring counsel to conduct cross-examination. Therefore, it appears that the applicant and the zoning board would have gone forward with the hearing only if no organized and prepared opposition appeared. The fact that the applicant was allowed a continuation after we and others were required to scramble to put together a case is simply inequitable.
My clients incurred substantial expense in preparing for this hearing, which to date the applicant has not offered to reimburse. Hopefully, Bureau County and the applicant will make every effort to respect the schedules, expenditures and efforts of my clients and the public at large moving forward through this process. Our goal for Feb. 28, 2011, and the subsequent days of the hearing is to provide the county with some of the new information that has been acquired concerning the negative impacts that wind turbines have on a community, since this application was originally approved three years ago. We believe that the zoning board and the county board should find that the unusual step of extending a conditional use permit that has not been acted upon in three years should not occur in this case. The board should require the applicant to file a new application if it is indeed serious about this project which will permanently change the landscape of your community.
Richard S. Porter, attorney, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP