May 10, 2012

Township’s protest passes muster after all; State’s attorney changes position on wind energy objection


DIXON – Two weeks ago, Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon said two townships failed to properly submit their objections to a proposed wind energy ordinance.

Days later, he shifted his position.

In a May 2 letter, Dixon said Willow Creek Township’s objection is considered filed. Because that’s the case, he said, the County Board will need to pass the ordinance with at least a three-fourths vote, not the usual simple majority.

Willow Creek, in eastern Lee County, adopted its resolution opposing the ordinance March 13, within the required 30 days of the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on the ordinance.

Dixon said the resolution doesn’t state that it is an objection, but he added that the township’s board clearly states that it is opposed to the wind energy proposal.

“Further, it appears to be a negotiating instrument rather than a clear objection,” Dixon wrote in a letter to Willow Creek Supervisor Bob Book.

However, he interpreted the resolution as a “well-intended attempt” to comply with state requirements for filing an objection.

The county, he said, should not overlook the good-faith effort.

Hamilton Township’s objection, however, is inadequate, he said.

“Just like the Willow Creek Township objection, it was not filed in an appropriate manner. However, your objection by resolution was at least properly executed and delivered to the county,” the state’s attorney told Book.

Rockford attorney Rick Porter, who represents residents in Hamilton Township in far southwestern Lee County, helped write its resolution. The township’s board adopted the resolution and recorded the action in its minutes, he said.

Dixon had previously said Hamilton’s objection wasn’t signed. Porter said he hadn’t been able to confirm that fact.

In an April 27 letter, Dixon told County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, that neither township properly submitted their objections.

At last month’s County Board meeting, Seeberg said the county only needed a simple majority to pass the wind energy ordinance because the townships didn’t properly file their objections.

At March’s County Board meeting, both townships presented their resolutions against the wind energy ordinance. The meeting minutes state that both resolutions were on file.

However, County Clerk Cathy Myers, who takes the minutes, said the “on file” notation only means the resolutions were included with the minutes. She said the townships needed to go to her office to officially file the resolutions.

However, state law says that townships need to submit their resolutions to the County Board, without specifying a process.

In the April 27 letter, Dixon contended that Porter, the Rockford attorney, had attempted “legalized extortion, and I don’t mean that in a bad or evil sense.”

He said Porter was using the objection process to get the board to amend the proposed ordinance to his liking.

Dixon didn’t respond to a message seeking comment.

Both resolutions urge the County Board to enact a 2,000-foot setback between homes and turbines. The proposed ordinance includes a setback of 1,400 feet or 3.5 times the height of the turbine, whichever is greater.

Residents: Board can’t vote on issue

DIXON – Lee County Board Chairman Jim Seeberg plans an up-or-down vote on a proposed wind energy ordinance at Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

But some residents say the board can’t legally vote on it.

On Feb. 23, the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved the final version of the proposed ordinance. Officials maintain the required hearing was held during that meeting.

Wednesday, residents told the board’s Executive Committee that the county never properly advertised the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation, and the meeting minutes didn’t indicate that a hearing was held.

“There were no witnesses or sworn testimony,” said Bob Logan, Franklin Grove’s village president.

During an April 24 meeting, State’s Attorney Henry Dixon said the deadline had passed for the County Board to vote on the wind energy ordinance. He said the issue should go back to the zoning board for a hearing because 30 days had lapsed since it sent the ordinance to the County Board.

Logan told the Executive Committee that he agreed with Dixon.

However, Jim Timble, a Franklin Grove resident, said he didn’t. He said he couldn’t find the 30-day requirement in the law, adding that he wanted to appeal to Dixon’s “common sense.” The board shouldn’t rush into a decision, he said.

Dixon didn’t attend the meeting.

Afterward, Seeberg, R-Ashton, said he wanted to go ahead with a vote Tuesday.

To attend

The Lee County Board will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.

Board Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, said he plans an up-or-down vote on the proposed wind energy ordinance.

For an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information, go to or call 815-288-5676.

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