Kankakee County and other government bodies try to be fair when they hear zoning issues, giving everyone a say.
Still, it’s hard to erase the advantages that big companies have over individual citizens.
I’ve seen these advantages at hearings for solar and wind farms. At these meetings, companies typically have a team of experts who have been preparing their proposals for months, if not years.
Residents near proposed wind and solar projects might have just a few weeks and sometimes less to make their cases to county officials.
They rarely have the resources to hire lawyers, let alone other expert witnesses.
Nowhere is this more apparent than when a company trots out a certified appraiser who inevitably will testify the customer’s project will have no adverse effect on neighboring properties.
At a zoning board hearing this week, residents near Bonfield opposed a solar farm planned near them, contending they would not have bought their properties if they knew about the project beforehand.
If this is the trend, then their home values will drop. Fewer prospective buyers puts downward pressure on prices, reflecting supply and demand.
But this is assuming most people don’t want to live next to solar panels. I conducted an unscientific survey of 15 co-workers. With everything else the same, would they want their dream house to face a solar or regular farm?
Six said they would rather their house be next to a regular farm and four chose solar, and five didn’t care.
One of those choosing a solar farm as a neighbor said she wouldn’t mind seeing something different because she grew up on a farm.
My quick poll would not hold water against a certified appraiser, who has spent considable time studying the issue. That’s where an appraiser with a different motivation might be valuable.
In an ideal world, residents opposing solar or wind farms would have appraisers at their disposal who could determine whether their home values were at risk and testify to that fact.
As it is, we’re only hearing one side’s expert witnesses. If there’s another side, it goes unheard.
This is how companies hold a lot more sway over a zoning board than regular Joes who are trying to protect their home values.
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