CAMBRIDGE – Whether a new wind farm will be built in Henry County may depend in part on a lawsuit filed in Henry County Circuit Court last March.
The suit questions the action of the Henry County Board in granting Avangrid Renewables’ Midland wind farm a special use permit last December.
Judge Terry Patton took the first ruling in the case under advisement Thursday. He must decide whether to allow the defendants to exceed the 10-page limit on a motion to dismiss.
Attorney Howard Roin for Avangrid Renewables pointed out that the 42-page original complaint was lengthy.
“We have to meet each allegation,” he said. “We can’t just respond to 50% or 75%. I don’t see where we could cut much out of it.”
Rick Porter, the attorney for the 15 neighbors, said he had “yet to deal with a 50-page motion to dismiss.”
“It seems they’re trying to litigate the entire matter in a motion to dismiss,” he said, adding that it was “before we even have a chance to bring in witnesses” in a trial.
He said his clients were “citizens hiring an attorney battling a mega-company with an unlimited budget.”
“I’m objecting to exceeding 10 pages,” he said. “I shouldn’t have to deal with all that (50 pages) in the very first pleading.”
Roin said all he was asking the court to do was allow the facts that should be considered and the law that should be considered. He said the chief question was whether the Henry County Board acted irrationally last December in granting the wind farm a special use permit.
“I think in this process the answer’s going to be ‘no,’ but you don’t have to get there now, you just have to allow us to make the case,” he said.
Patton said he would issue a ruling and then set up a briefings schedule with attorneys via phone conference.
He pointed out contacts he had with attorneys and plaintiffs involved in the matter in case either side wants to request a substitute judge before he is asked to make any substantive rulings. Chief among the potential conflicts was that he was formerly state’s attorney for Henry County. He said his only role with earlier wind farms was helping out with road agreements.
Linda Grant, one of the 15 plaintiffs, said before the hearing that one goal had already been achieved: buying time to research information for the permitting process.
She explained the state is still collecting information before deciding whether federal permits should be required. If so, then the Army Corps of Engineers would decide on the permits, and Native American tribes concerned about desecration of historical grounds would send letters of interest. She said the tribes also have input in the state process.
She said a “Nationwide Permit 51” takes in every consideration as far as cultural grounds, natural springs and waterways, and migratory bird routes.
“That one has the most teeth in it,” she said. “The state will take as long as needed to get all their information together. They’re still gathering information.”
The proposed Midland wind farm would be located in Annawan, Burns, Cornwall, Galva and Kewanee townships.