The Bureau County Board voted against imposing fines on a group of four-year-old wind farm violations.
Board member Joe Bassetti made a motion Tuesday for the state’s attorney to start the process to issue fines against wind farm developer Iberdrola Renewables for three wind turbines and one meteorological tower in the Providence Heights wind farm that were built too close to adjoining properties.
Bassetti said he wants the county to issue the fines to send a message to future wind farm developers that they need to follow the zoning ordinances and that they can’t walk all over the board.
Board member Mike Maynard said he agreed, but it’s now several years after the fact in each of the instances Bassetti cited.
The three wind turbines and met tower in question were constructed in December 2007, Bassetti said.
“I’ve been asking to do this for years, but our outside legal counsel kept on saying no,” Bassetti said, referencing the time the county spent in litigation with Iberdrola.
The board last year approved a settlement with the wind farm developer over damage incurred to county roads during the construction of the Providence Heights wind farm.
Pat Herrmann said that to pursue the issuance of fines, the county would have to hire expert witnesses, such as a surveyor. He said he wouldn’t venture to guess whether the county’s costs would exceed the potential income from the fines, which a judge could set anywhere between $1 and $500 per week per violation.
The amount the fines could be set at would depend on many factors, such as how close the turbines and tower were built to other properties, the potential danger of that proximity and whether the owner of the adjoining property was also a participating landowner in the wind farm or not.
Board member Dan Rabe suggested that another mitigating factor might be that Iberdrola began addressing the violations on its own. By purchasing the land where it had exceeded the setbacks, the wind farm developer remedied each of the violations between 2008 and 2010, Bassetti said.
“They didn’t wait for us to tell them to clean up their act,” said Rabe. “When they found themselves in violation, they started to clean up the problem, like by buying the other land.”
Eleven board members voted to impose the fines. Fifteen voted no, defeating the motion.
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