A group of Walnut area property-owners filed a 117-count complaint in Bureau County Circuit Court aiming to stop development of the Walnut Ridge wind farm in northern Bureau County.
The complaint names as defendants the County of Bureau, the Bureau County Board, all individual Bureau County Board members in their official capacities and Walnut Ridge Wind LLC.
The plaintiffs include close to 40 Bureau County landowners whose property values, according to the complaint, have decreased significantly and will continue to decrease because of imminent wind farm development in their vicinity. The complaint also claims the plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their property will be negatively affected by construction and operation of the Walnut Ridge wind farm. They are represented by Rockford attorney Rick Porter of Hinshaw and Culbertson.
The complaint indicates problems in Bureau County’s timing of public hearings and in the notice given for such hearings that render Walnut Ridge Wind’s original conditional use permits and their extensions null and void.
On Aug. 26, 2008, the Bureau County Board voted to approve Walnut Ridge Wind’s 143 conditional use permits for wind turbine generators. According to the complaint, there should have been a public hearing about these conditional use applications no more than 30 days prior to the board’s vote. The last hearing was held 71 days earlier on June 16, 2008, rendering the conditional use permits void, the complaint claims.
The conditional use permits were set to expire in three years, on Aug. 26, 2011, but Walnut Ridge Wind had not started construction by the beginning of this year and in January 2011 requested an extension of those permits, which was later approved by Bureau County board on April 14, 2011. The county sent notice Jan. 28, 2011 of a public hearing on Feb. 17, 2011. According to the complaint, this 20-day notice was outside the 30-day requirement, suggesting another procedural problem.
The complaint also claims the Village of Walnut was entitled to notice of all public hearings and that the village, not the county, should have had jurisdiction on wind turbine siting decisions within 1.5 miles of the village. Twelve of the locations identified in Walnut Ridge’s conditional use permits lie within that boundary.
The complaint requests the court stop development of the Walnut Ridge wind farm, but the remedies requested in the individual counts vary from declaring the original permits and their extensions void to providing injunctive relief prohibiting Walnut Ridge Wind from taking any action on the original permits and their extensions and prohibiting the Bureau County defendants from issuing assistance to Walnut Ridge Wind based upon those original permits and their extensions.
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