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Invenergy finally files appeal to board’s denial

At noon on Friday, Invenergy filed an appeal in the Livingston County circuit court against the July 16 Livingston County Board decision to deny its application for the Pleasant Ridge wind energy project, with only a week to spare before its 90-day appeal window expired.

The appeal states that “the County Board majority’s ultimate adoption of the (Zoning Board of Appeals’) recommendation, and denial of the Application, was arbitrary, unreasonable, bears no substantial relation to the public health, safety and welfare, and violated (Invenergy’s) rights to substantive and procedural due process.”

After many months of ZBA hearings, Agriculture, Zoning and Emergency Services Committee discussions and a lot of contentious community discussion, the County Board finally voted 13-9 for the appeals board’s recommendation to deny the Invenergy application.

Shortly after the vote, Invenergy issued a press release saying that it was “looking at all of our options,” which was believed to reference an eventual appeal.

The appeal itself is a 40-page document that details Invenergy’s version of the events of the ZBA hearings and relevant County Board meetings, and highlights a number elements of those sessions it believes were unfair and disingenuous. The appeal also includes various exhibits and testimonials favoring its proposed project.

In its appeal, Invenergy alleges that “several votes in opposition to the Application, as with the ZBA, resulted from factors having nothing to do with the evidence presented at the hearings,” and cites an “informed belief” that “at least some of the negative votes resulted from intense political and/or personal pressure from local opponents to the Project.”

The appeal was particularly critical of Board Member Carolyn Gerwin in this regard, citing her membership of the Illinois Tea Party, which the appeal stated is a proponent of climate change denial, as well as her attendance at functions with ties to the Koch brothers, who are known for their lobby efforts against wind energy and climate change science, as evidence of her never intending to take the application seriously.

The Invenergy appeal says Gerwin’s own anti-wind lobbying efforts resulted in “negative votes” from other board members. Gerwin could not be reached for comment by press time.

The Invenergy appeal ultimately rejects the County Board’s decision because the Pleasant Ridge proposal was sound from a zoning and legal perspective.

“The record from the ZBA hearings, including the findings and recommendations of the County’s independent consulting expert, Patrick Engineering, confirms that (Invenergy) complied with all of the requirements of the Wind Ordinance,” the appeal noted. “The County Board did not under those circumstances have the discretion to deny the Application, particularly for reasons having nothing to do with the evidence presented.

“Wherefore, (Invenergy) prays for judgment in its favor as follows: for a mandatory injunction directing the County and the County Board to comply with its zoning standards, and specifically with the requirements of the Wind Ordinance, and approve the Application.”

In a statement separate from the appeal, the wind energy company stated that it “virtually never considers an appeal except in the most egregious and obvious situations where we have had no other choice.

“Rather than relying on factual evidence and expert testimony, the Livingston County Zoning Board of Appeals and Livingston County Board cited false and falsified information presented by Pleasant Ridge opponents with ties to the national anti-wind energy movement as justification for opposing the project.

“Illinois law requires further consideration on Pleasant Ridge be done through the court, which leaves us no other options than to file an appeal.”