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A new wind farm judge

PRINCETON – A new judge has been appointed to hear the Walnut Ridge complaint filed in Bureau County Court by 37 Walnut area residents and landowners.

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Chief Justice H. Chris Ryan has assigned Judge Joseph Hettel to hear the case, in which the plaintiffs are seeking to stop the building of the proposed 150-turbine Walnut Ridge Wind wind farm in northwest Bureau County.

Named as defendants in the complaint are 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.

A new judge was needed to hear the case after one of the plaintiffs, Friesland Farm LCC, filed a request for substitution of judge to not have Associate Circuit Judge C.J. Hollerich hear the case. Plaintiff Steve Gerdes, who is president of Friesland Farm, filed a request for substitution of judge to not have Circuit Judge Marc Bernabei hear the case. The requests were then sent to the 13th Judicial Circuit chief justice for reassignment of judge.

As the newly-appointed judge in the Walnut Ridge case, Hettel has ordered the plaintiffs to file a response on or before Oct. 7 to a motion to dismiss the case, which was filed Aug. 3 by the defendant Walnut Ridge LLC. The defendant will then have until Oct. 28 to file its reply, if any.

Hettel has set a court hearing on the motion to dismiss and briefs for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 10 at the LaSalle County Courthouse in Ottawa.

The 450-page, 117-count complaint, filed June 30 in Bureau County Court, claims the Bureau 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.

In the defendant’s 20-page motion to dismiss, the defendant states the plaintiffs’ claims are based upon conditional use permits granted by the Bureau County Board in 2008 and are all untimely and should be dismissed, with prejudice.