Ahead of the full Livingston County Board meeting next week, the Agriculture, Zoning and Emergency Services Committee received feedback on proposed amendment changes regarding wind energy regulations from State’s Attorney Seth Uphoff and attorney Tom Blakeman. The most central issue going forward is whether the populations of townships have the authority to use county referendums to create property line setbacks specific to those units of government.
Uphoff and Blakeman went through the proposed changes to the ordinance, offering the committee their legal counsel on language redundancies and discrepancies. The subject that generated the longest discussion was that of the ability of create township-specific setbacks.
However, it was not clear at the meeting as to whether such a measure stood up to legal scrutiny or not, as word back from Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office on a possible referendum resolving the issue had yet to be received.
“This committee set down to work on changes to the ordinance,” AZEC Chairman Bill Flott said. “The primary understanding was that voters will decide, and townships – if they so elected – could opt out. So if the Attorney General comes back and says ‘no, you can’t do that,’ or ‘no, there’s no way to do that,’ then all bets are off …
“The assumption was that we could do that, so that’s why’ve put it in here … What we understood, as we set down to do this, is that if (the part about township setbacks) came out of here, that this thing doesn’t stand.”
However, some were uncomfortable with the thought of possible ramifications for the County Board if it received word back from Madigan’s office that the township setback amendments were illegal, and if the window had passed to take the referendum off the November ballot.
At the end of the attorneys’ review, Uphoff offered his takeaway and objective going forward.
“Going forward, the takeaway that I have is that Tom and I will try to incorporate language which will state that any township that adopts that subsection of the ordinance by way of referendum will have such and such setbacks,” Uphoff concluded.
During public comment, attorney Phillip Leutkehans, who represented a group of more than 90 individuals opposed to wind farms, collectively calling themselves the United Citizens of Livingston County, in Zoning Board of Appeals meetings, addressed some sticking points of his own with the latest draft, including its lack of language regarding financial remedies should a wind energy company violate conditions laid out for it in the proposed ordinance.
The AZEC members decided to schedule a continued meeting on May 10 to continue addressing Uphoff’s, Blakeman’s and Leutkehans’ concerns with the amendment as it stood, and perhaps come to an agreement that was legally amenable to all parties.
At the much shorter Sheriff, Jail and License Committee meeting an hour before the AZEC gathering took place, officers and deputies from each division under the Sheriff’s Department, including the Pro-Active Unit, the County Jail and Animal Control were on hand to deliver reports and answer questions, suggesting that a possible mending in the fractured relationship between the two camps was underway.
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