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Lawsuit filed

PRINCETON – A group of Bureau County residents have filed a complaint against the county of Bureau, the Bureau County Board, each member of the Bureau County Board as individuals in their official capacities, and against Walnut Ridge Wind LLC.

The goal of the complaint is to stop the building of the proposed 150-turbine Walnut Ridge Wind wind farm in northwest Bureau County.

Filing the complaint are 37 Bureau County residents whose properties are situated around the proposed Walnut Ridge Wind site. Spokespersons for the group are Ron Amerein, Deanna Wilt and Steve Hamrick. Representing the group is Rockford attorney Rick Porter of Hinshaw and Culbertson.

In a press release issued Thursday, the spokespersons claim there were “significant procedural mistakes in the process and substantial flaws in the findings” of the county board.

Filed Wednesday at the Bureau County Courthouse, the 450-page, 117-count complaint claims the county board did not have the authority or jurisdiction to grant the original conditional use permits to Walnut Ridge Wind LLC in August 2008, nor the authority to approve the permit extension requests granted by the county board in April 2011.

According to the complaint, there was improper public notice of the zoning application and the request to extend those applications; that the permits lapsed because the turbine company did not act on those permits for three years; and that the original permits are void because Bureau County had no jurisdiction to issue them. In addition, the complaint describes why the court should conclude, as did the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals, that granting an extension of those Walnut Ridge permits was not supported by facts of law. (On March 31, the Zoning Board of Appeals recommended, on a 3-2 vote, to deny extensions to the Walnut Ridge conditional use permits.)

The complaint also asks the court to find the county board’s action is “arbitrary and capricious.” According to the plaintiffs, the county board’s decision failed to consider the negative impact of the proposed turbines, including, among other things, annoying and incessant noise, visual disturbances from flashing lights, turning blades and massive unsightly towers, shadow flicker, negative health affects, including sleep deprivation, and the impact to pets, livestock, birds and wildlife.

In their press release, the spokespersons described the plaintiffs as a very diverse group, representing individuals owning homes in close proximity to one or more of the proposed Walnut Ridge turbine towers, as well as farmers and landowners who expect their operations to be significantly harmed if the turbine towers are allowed to be built.

Each of the plaintiffs has made a financial commitment to support the cost of bringing this complaint to the courts, the spokespersons stated. For some of these property owners, the affected property represents their principal financial asset, and thus a lifetime of savings, the spokespersons claimed.

In some additional comments, spokesperson Steve Hamrick reiterated why this group of Bureau County residents has taken this legal action and what they want to accomplish.

“Fundamentally, this action is necessary to preserve the value of our homes and farms in the face of overwhelming evidence that the construction of so many turbine towers, so close to our property, will cause irreparable harm to the long-standing, pre-existing use and enjoyment of our property,” Hamrick said. “Our group is seeking only to prevent the wind turbine facility from being constructed and is not seeking any monetary recovery.”

On Thursday, Bureau County State’s Attorney Pat Herrmann, who will represent the defendants in the complaint, said defendants have 30 days to reply after a subpoena is served.