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Group sues to stop proposed wind farm

PRINCETON – A group of 37 residents is trying to stop construction of a proposed 150-turbine Walnut Ridge wind farm in northwest Bureau County.

The residents, whose properties are around the proposed site, claim there were “significant procedural mistakes in the [approval] process and substantial flaws in the finds” of the Bureau County Board.

They filed a 450-page, 117-count complaint last week against the Bureau County government, its County Board and each individual member, and against Walnut Ridge Wind LLC. They claim the board lacked the authority or jurisdiction to grant the original conditional use permits in August 2008, and to approve the permit extension requests in April.

According to the complaint:

n There was improper public notice of the zoning application and the request to extend those applications.

n The permits lapsed because Walnut Ridge did not act on them for 3 years.

n The original permits are void because Bureau County had no jurisdiction to issue them.

The complaint also asks the court to conclude, as the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals did with a 3-2 vote March 31, that the law did not support extending the permits.

The residents call the County Board’s extension of the permits “arbitrary and capricious” and say members failed to consider the negative impacts of the wind farm.

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.

Steve Hamrick, a spokesman for the group, called the complaint “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 the group is not seeking any money.

Bureau County State’s Attorney Pat Herrmann said Thursday that defendants have 30 days to reply after a subpoena is served.