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Judge denies Citizens’ request for judgement on wind turbine

A judge on Thursday denied a request from neighbors of a wind turbine in Libertyville to have it immediately turned off, but they vowed to keep fighting. Village officials applauded the ruling.

A group of neighbors known as Citizens for the Protection of Libertyville had requested a summary judgment against operators of the turbine, but it was denied by Judge Mitchell Hoffman.

“Disappointed,” is how Dave Gates, a leader of Citizens group, described reaction to the decision. “But (Hoffman) clearly spent a lot of time on a well thought out decision.”

Laurie Renz, whose home abuts the turbine at 844 E. Rockland Road, echoed Gates’ frustration.

“Nothing’s changed,” Renz said. “We hoped it would dispose of the case. It’s been over two years. It’s enough.”

The neighbors filed two lawsuits against the Village of Libertyville and Aldridge Electric Company, which installed the turbine. The first lawsuit, which was addressed on Thursday, alleged the village’s current wind turbine ordinance was not written properly and that Aldridge Electric should reapply for a special use permit to continue to run its turbine.

The lawsuit alleges the village neither notified residents nor had a public hearing between a late 2008 plan commission meeting and a Village Board meeting in early 2009, where trustees unanimously approved Aldridge’s plan to build the turbine.

During that time, Aldridge asked village trustees for permission to construct the wind turbine closer to homes than where the turbine was previously approved to be built.

The request was posted on a board meeting agenda and the public was allowed to comment on the proposed location for the turbine at the January meeting, village attorney David Pardys wrote in an email.

Hoffman stated in his summary to deny the motion that the village violated its own wind farm statute. However, Aldridge invested in installing the wind turbine in accordance with the village’s approval process, and the Citizens group objected to the turbine after it was constructed, Hoffman said.

“We think the judge made the right ruling,” said Village Attorney David Pardys, adding that he disagrees with Hoffman’s comments regarding the violation of the wind farm statute.

“We believe the wind farm statute was not applicable,” Pardys said.

He and attorney David Goles have argued that the village followed the process of issuing a special use permit special use permit under a general zoning code on electricity generation, and not through a wind turbine ordinance.

Village officials say they followed the public hearing process by notifying residents with letters, and through public notices posted on village board meeting agendas. Residents also had the opportunity to comment on the turbine at village board meetings between November and February, Goles said at the last hearing.

Gates wasn’t buying that.

“We didn’t know we’d been fooled,” Gates said about the timing of the Citizen’s objection to the turbine. The neighbors rallied three weeks after the turbine was installed to have it taken down.

“We didn’t understand until the thing was up and constructed that it was making all that noise,” he said.

The request for a summary judgement was a motion filed with the hopes of ending the court battle sooner than later, Renz said.

Even though the Citizens group lost this round, they are still determined to continue their fight.

The Citizens group’s second case regarding the wind turbine calls it a nuisance. It argues that the sound, vibration and sight of it create a nuisance in the daily lives of the residents who live near it. That case could go to trial, but dates have not been set yet.

The neighbors are still hopeful to sit at a table with Aldridge and Village officials outside of court to find a way to take down the turbine or move it farther from their homes, Gates said.

Village officials are willing to help with the negotiation process, Pardys said.

“We’re more than happy to see Aldridge and the neighbors resolve this, if they would like to,” Pardys said.