DECATUR – A judge has denied a motion to remove Macon County and its 21 board members from a lawsuit brought by landowners near the location of a proposed wind farm project.
After nearly an hour of discussion from lawyers on behalf of the county and the landowners, Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Little ruled Tuesday afternoon that the county board would remain part of the case filed last December that seeks stop the construction of 139 wind turbines across 24,000 acres in the northwest part of the county.
Many of the plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $50,000 for the nuisance of the process.
Little did not provide additional reasoning for his decision.
Amanda Zdarsky, a Rosemont-based attorney representing the county, argued that the county had met its legal requirements when it mailed out notifications of zoning changes to those who lived in “adjacent” properties to the proposed turbine location near Maroa and Warrensburg. Though some plaintiffs said they did not receive notice, Zdarsky argued the county did its legal part to reasonably contact all parties about a zoning board of appeals meeting held last summer to discuss the project; through mailings sent at least 15 days before meeting, road signage and postings in local publications.
“(The county) is not required to take extraordinary measures to contact individuals,” she said.
But Robert Porter, a Rockford-based attorney representing the plaintiffs, repeated much of the initial criticism of the county, saying that notifications were not received before the legally required 15 days, while others say they received a notice with the wrong date of the meeting. Other plaintiffs claim they did not receive any notice at all of the hearing.
During a heated point of discussion, Little put a brief stop to the legal arguments after the attorneys continued to cut one another off.
“I can see this is a hotly contested issue, but we are going to be civil to one another here,” he said.
The frustration was palpable during the two-hour hearing, as the attorneys went over the 14 motions that have been filed over the past four months. Most of them, ranging from dismissing the suit against defendants E.On, the American unit of Germany’s largest utility company, and its subsidiary companies Twin Forks Wind Farm and EC&R O&M, who submitted the original application and would oversee operation of the wind farm, were dropped by attorneys.
A status hearing on the case is set for July 19.
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