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Wind farm setback dispute may land in court  

Credit:  Will Brumleve, The News-Gazette, www.news-gazette.com 20 September 2011 ~~

GILMAN – A legal dispute over whether Douglas Township officials provided proper public notice when they adopted a 2,000-foot setback for wind turbines could be headed to court.

But attorneys on both sides of the issue hope it does not come to that.

“We’re still seeking an amicable resolution to this,” said John Redlingshafer, a Peoria attorney representing Douglas Township, an area around Gilman. “It’s a situation where the state’s attorney has his opinion and we have ours, and we just hope that in an effort to get this resolved, we can do so short of going to court.”

Iroquois County State’s Attorney Jim Devine said he believes Douglas Township officials did not provide proper public notice when they approved the 2,000-foot setback in June. As a result, Devine said, he is refusing to draft the ordinance the county board approved in July, at the request of Douglas Township, to create the 2,000-foot setback – a setback that is 500 feet deeper than the one outlined in the county’s wind farm zoning ordinance.

Devine said he and Redlingshafer are now “trying to work it out” without going to court. But Devine also said he is not going to “back down on my position” and that if both sides cannot agree to a resolution, “it may end up in litigation.”

“Their option is to re-vote (on the setback),” Devine said.

Redlingshafer said in a letter to Devine that “Douglas Township hopes that this situation can be resolved in an amicable and efficient manner. However, it reserves the right to seek all appropriate relief, including, but not limited to, court action.”

Meanwhile, Devine argued in his letter to township attorneys that the Illinois Township Code requires a meeting’s agenda and notice be posted at least 10 days before a meeting, as well as in a local newspaper, but “neither of these requirements were done” when the township board and its plan commission held meetings to approve the setback.

Devine also wrote that several other legal requirements were not met. Devine said the township board met earlier (5 p.m.) than legally allowed for a special township meeting; that there was no written statement from the township board or voters requesting a special meeting as required; and that there were too few people present at the meeting for the special meeting to be legally held.

Redlingshafer wrote a letter in response, arguing that the statutes Devine cited apply to “annual and special meetings of the township electors, and not a township board or a township plan commission.”

Redlingshafer wrote in his letter that a township board must provide 48 hours’ notice of a meeting, not 10 days as stated by Devine. Redlingshafer added that notices and agendas for the township meetings were posted at the building in which the meetings were to be held and in “various prominent places throughout the township.”

Douglas Township’s adoption of a 2,000-foot setback is believed to be the first time a township in Illinois has adopted a wind-turbine setback more restrictive than its county’s.

Iroquois County’s setback of 1,500 feet, approved earlier in June, was already the largest countywide setback in the state for wind turbines. But Douglas Township officials did not think the countywide setback was restrictive enough to address potential issues surrounding turbines.

Some wind farm companies have said that a 2,000-foot setback would be so restrictive that it would effectively eliminate the possibility of a wind farm.

But Rod Copas of Gilman, who serves on both the Iroquois County Board and Douglas Township Board of Supervisors, noted it is a “waivable setback,” so a landowner can agree to allow a turbine placed closer to his or her home if they so choose.

Source:  Will Brumleve, The News-Gazette, www.news-gazette.com 20 September 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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