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New judge named in Walnut Ridge suit

PRINCETON – A new judge has been assigned to the Walnut Ridge lawsuit filed against the Bureau County Board and other defendants.

The case has now been assigned to Judge Richard J. Lannon and will be heard in the LaSalle County Courthouse in Ottawa. The next court hearing will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 12 for hearing on the motion filed by the defendants to dismiss the lawsuit.

A group of 37 Walnut area residents filed the Walnut Ridge complaint June 30 against the county of Bureau, the Bureau County Board, each county board member as individuals, and against the Walnut Ridge wind farm developers, Walnut Ridge Wind LLC. The goal of the complaint is to stop the building of the proposed 150-turbine Walnut Ridge Wind wind farm in northwest Bureau County.

Both Walnut Ridge LLC and the Bureau County defendants have filed motions to dismiss the 117-count lawsuit, which challenges the Bureau County Board’s actions taken in 2008 and in 2011, concerning the proposed Walnut Ridge project. According to the motions to dismiss, the plaintiffs’ claims within each count are based upon conditional use permits granted by the county board in 2008 and are all untimely and should be dismissed, with prejudice.

The plaintiffs in the 450-page complaint are 37 Bureau County residents whose properties are located in the vicinity of the proposed Walnut Ridge Wind site. The plaintiffs claim 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.

According to the plaintiffs, the county board’s decisions also failed to consider the negative impact of the proposed turbines, including, among other things, annoying and incessant noise, visual disturbances from flashing lights, turning blades and massive unsightly towers, shadow flicker, negative health affects, including sleep deprivation, and the impact to pets, livestock, birds and wildlife.