Ruling out an amendment that would free the Minonk wind farm of recently enacted Woodford County zoning regulations could result in legal action by the project developer.
Against the wishes of Gamesa Technology Corp., the Woodford County Board decided not to put into law Minonk Wind LLC’s exemption from the new requirements, which relate to turbine locations and the shadows cast by their blades. Instead, the board passed a resolution with the same wording.
Gamesa asked for the amendment at the behest of Minonk-project investors.
The resolution doesn’t have quite the same force legally as an amendment, something Gamesa attorney Pauline Doohan and Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger noted.
“We don’t want to be in violation of the law, or for any other party to say we’re in violation,” Doohan told the board prior to its vote Tuesday night. “A non-participating owner might say, ‘You built a turbine too close to my property.’ The reason they would say that is from looking at the February amendments, which don’t grandfather in Minonk.”
Doohan said failure to pass the amendment would be “of great concern” to her client.
“We literally are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this wind farm,” she said. “We may be forced to file delcaratory action for a court to determine what the February amendment did and how it applies to Minonk. We don’t want to do that.
“We’re not looking for special treatment. We’re only looking for what the county promised us when they issued us a special-use permit.”
After the meeting, Gamesa Chief Development Officer Jiddu Tapia appeared to downplay the possibilty of litigation.
“I don’t think we said as a result of this, we’re going to court,” Tapia said. “The amendment is something to protect the county and protect the project. We’re disappointed it did not pass, but I don’t think the next step is to go to court.”
Still, a legal challenge was on the minds of some board members – most notably the only attorney in the group, Tom Janssen.
“The judge is going to rule by reading the ordinance. That’s the potential problem,” said Janssen, who voted in favor of the amendment. “He doesn’t see any exceptions in there, and he can shut them down.”
Fellow Board Member Doug Huser, who voted against the amendment, didn’t see why Gamesa should be treated differently than others in similar situations. He also suggested Gamesa was inconsistent in its approach toward county ordinances.
But Huser and other board members managed to find some humor in an otherwise-serious subject.
“Mr. Janssen makes a living arguing about law. You could say black is black, and he could argue it,” Huser said to chuckles from his audience.
Said Janssen, with a laugh: “There’s a lot of truth to that.”
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