PRINCETON – After nearly a year of public hearings, the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals last week made a recommendation to the Bureau County Board to deny conditional use permits for the proposed Walnut Ridge Wind Farm.
On Monday, Dec. 21, Bureau County Zoning Officer Kris Donarski confirmed the board of appeals recommended denial of all 127 conditional use permits. They also granted 55 variations and denied six variations that BHE Renewables had been requesting for the wind project.
Before the board of appeals made its recommendation to deny conditional use permits to the county board, the Bureau County Regional Planning Commission recommended to the county board approval of 119 conditional use permits and denial of the other eight permits, according to Donarski.
The Bureau County Board will now take the recommendations into consideration before making the final decision on whether or not to approve the conditional use permits.
The board’s next meeting will be on Jan. 12. Action on the conditional use permits is expected to be taken into consideration by the board at the meeting.
While it’s unknown how the county board will vote, the board has been known to vote against recommendations given by the planning commission and the zoning board of appeals.
Another issue with Walnut Ridge
At last week’s public hearing, the zoning board of appeals also recommended denial of an extension request of the 2008 conditional uses permits that were previously extended in 2011 and requested again in 2014.
Donarski explained back in 2008, the county board granted conditional use permits for the Walnut Ridge Wind Farm. She said when a conditional use is granted, the applicant has three years to get a building permit.
In 2011, a building permit had not been received by the owner of the wind project at the time. However, they asked for an extension.
Donarski said before that extension was to run out on Dec. 31, 2014, Geronimo Wind Energy, who then owned the wind project filed a request for another extension for the conditional use permits.
About five months after the extension was requested, Geronimo sold the wind farm to BHE Renewables. The new owners amended the request for the extension, and did not seek to extend conditional use for the wind turbines.
“They were only seeking extension for the substation, staging area, transmission lines and transmission line support poles,” Donarski said.
That extension request went before the zoning board of appeals and was recommended denial to the county board.
The county board will now have to make a final decision on whether or not to grant the extension for the substation, staging area, transmission lines and support poles for the transmission lines.
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