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Lawyer: Wind objections properly filed

DIXON – Lee County officials say two townships failed to follow the proper procedure in objecting to the county’s proposed wind energy ordinance.

An attorney says the evidence indicates otherwise. And he describes the state’s attorney as being “disingenuous” on the matter.

This issue could have an effect on whether the ordinance is adopted.

Under state law, a township objection triggers a requirement that an ordinance must pass with a three-fourths vote – a higher hurdle than the usual simple majority.

Townships must submit those objections to the county within 30 days after a hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeals, according to state law.

If that hearing is the one in which the zoning board approved the ordinance, the deadline passed March 26.

Rockford attorney Rick Porter, who represents residents pushing for stricter wind farm rules, noted that the townships presented their objections to the proposed wind ordinance at the March 20 County Board meeting.

Representatives of both Hamilton and Willow Creek townships spoke before the board and submitted the resolutions. Those objections are on file, the meeting minutes say.

Copies of the Willow Creek resolution were given to 20 County Board members, County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg and the county clerk, Porter said. The attorney said he personally handed a copy to State’s Attorney Henry Dixon.

County officials, however, say the townships should have filed the objections at the county clerk’s office, which is a floor below the County Board chambers.

Seeberg, R-Ashton, announced at last week’s County Board meeting that the board needed only a simple majority to pass the ordinance, saying the objections hadn’t been filed. Member Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon, agreed.

In a letter to Dixon on Thursday, Porter said he was “stunned” that Dixon had told him in a previous phone call that Hamilton’s objection hadn’t been filed.

“For you to take the position that that [objection] had not been filed with the county is disingenuous,” Porter wrote.

To trigger the three-fourths rule, according to state law, an objection must be written and submitted to the County Board. The law says nothing about filing the objections at the county clerk’s office.

County Clerk Cathy Myers said Friday that her office always adds the words “on file” to items in minutes that refer to documents presented at County Board meetings. Those documents are attached to the minutes on file in the clerk’s office, she said.

But she said people must submit their documents to her office for them to be considered filed.

As for the state law on township objections, Myers referred questions to Dixon, who didn’t return messages for comment.

County Board member Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn, said she had understood that the ordinance needed a three-fourths majority because the townships had submitted their objections.

She said she feared the attorney general may get involved in the dispute, which would let the issue “drag on and on.”

The townships say they want changes to be made to the proposed wind ordinance before a vote is taken.

They want a 2,000-foot distance between houses and wind turbines. Hamilton is also seeking that distance from Green River.

The proposed ordinance’s setback is 1,400 feet between turbines and homes’ foundations.

The County Board is expected to vote on the ordinance May 15. Meanwhile, a special committee is planning two meetings before then to review the document.

To attend

A special committee of the Lee County Board will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday and April 30 on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon, to review the proposed wind energy ordinance.

Call 815-288-5676 for more information.