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Wind energy firms sue county

Several wind power companies have banded together to sue an area county barring it from building turbines as part of a large project.

The recently filed lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the Clinton County Commission and the Clinton County Planning and Zoning Commission. Osborn Wind Energy, Osborn Wind II, Boulevard Associates, and Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources are listed as plaintiffs. Boulevard is an affiliate of NextEra.

All of the plaintiff firms are engaged in developing renewable energy projects across the nation. Osborn and Osborn II are involved in creating a wind energy network in Clinton County, with Boulevard working with property owners to obtain lease agreements with property owners for wind turbine construction.

NextEra and the other companies said they received a special use permit six years ago to develop the project. That agreement, however, has since been terminated by the zoning panel, the document added.

The firms said they have continued efforts to obtain leases for the construction, and that a subsequent application also was rejected.

Consideration of amendments to a county regulation related to the work – as proposed by opponents – proceeded throughout the summer.

“Against the repeated recommendation of plaintiffs, the Planning and Zoning Commission failed to hire legal counsel or experts in fields being examined, even after plaintiffs offered to pay for such experts,” the suit stated. “While the Planning and Zoning Commission did provide an opportunity for these wind opposition parties to provide testimony in opposition to the wind project, it did not provide this opportunity to Clinton County residents that favored the wind project or that would have property rights harmed by the proposed amendments.”

Zoning officials, the suit continued, failed to follow or require opponents to follow certain procedures at hearings. They and county commissioners also “exhibited bias and prejudice against wind energy projects and plaintiffs’ efforts to develop a wind energy project, and colluded with individuals that opposed wind energy projects.”

In September, both the zoning board and commission voted to adopt a recommendation to ban construction of certain wind turbines in the county. The amendment prohibits turbines more than 120 feet high.

The suit also asks the Clinton County Circuit Court to force the production of all records involved in making the decision, to determine their validity.

Bruce Burdick, chairman of Concerned Citizens of Clinton County, said he couldn’t speculate on the next action if the court rules in favor of the companies. But he said it’s possible the zoning amendments could see further revision.

Kyle Carroll is a DeKalb County resident who opposes placing turbines close to the Pony Express Conservation Area. Opponents have cast their opinions on the grounds of negative impacts to the environment and property values.

“Most people here are not opposed to alternative energy, but we have done our part,” he said. “It’s time for the wind developers to go someplace else.”

NextEra continues building a 97-turbine wind farm near Osborn that is expected to be finished by late November.