Article

Overcrowding postpones public hearing

It might have been one of the most well-attended canceled meetings in DeKalb County history. An estimated 375 people packed a room in the county health facility Thursday night for a public hearing on a proposed wind farm. ...Because so many wanted to hear and be heard, DeKalb County Hearing Officer Dave Dockus canceled the meeting shortly after it started on account of the venue being too small and conditions "unfair" for everyone in the audience to hear and participate.

DeKALB - It might have been one of the most well-attended canceled meetings in DeKalb County history.

An estimated 375 people packed a room in the county health facility Thursday night for a public hearing on a proposed wind farm. NextEra Energy Resources wants to build and operate a wind farm consisting of 133 turbines in portions of Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships, as well as 18 turbines in Lee County.

Because so many wanted to hear and be heard, DeKalb County Hearing Officer Dave Dockus canceled the meeting shortly after it started on account of the venue being too small and conditions "unfair" for everyone in the audience to hear and participate. The hearing will be rescheduled for a later date and at a different location, to be determined by Planning and Zoning staff.

There were 160 chairs set up in the building's Multi-Purpose Room, while hundreds of other people lined the walls - and at least 10 stood in the hallway. The room's capacity was unknown as of Thursday night.

As Paul Miller, the county planning director, was giving opening remarks about the meeting structure, Rick Porter, an attorney for the anti-wind farm group Citizens for Open Government, stopped... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

DeKALB - It might have been one of the most well-attended canceled meetings in DeKalb County history.

An estimated 375 people packed a room in the county health facility Thursday night for a public hearing on a proposed wind farm. NextEra Energy Resources wants to build and operate a wind farm consisting of 133 turbines in portions of Afton, Clinton, Milan and Shabbona townships, as well as 18 turbines in Lee County.

Because so many wanted to hear and be heard, DeKalb County Hearing Officer Dave Dockus canceled the meeting shortly after it started on account of the venue being too small and conditions "unfair" for everyone in the audience to hear and participate. The hearing will be rescheduled for a later date and at a different location, to be determined by Planning and Zoning staff.

There were 160 chairs set up in the building's Multi-Purpose Room, while hundreds of other people lined the walls - and at least 10 stood in the hallway. The room's capacity was unknown as of Thursday night.

As Paul Miller, the county planning director, was giving opening remarks about the meeting structure, Rick Porter, an attorney for the anti-wind farm group Citizens for Open Government, stopped him and asked that the meeting be rescheduled because people in the hallway couldn't get in.

G.A. Finch, representing FPL Energy Illinois Wind, an affiliate of NextEra, responded that the hearing should continue.

"We believe there is plenty of opportunity for people here to hear this hearing," he said, though struggling to get the microphone working. Outbursts from people who couldn't hear were heard throughout the crowd, at which point Dockus admonished heckling and jeering as inappropriate.

"Denying this hearing is going to deny us the opportunity to proceed with this hearing and this process in an expedient fashion," Finch said.

However, many said they were relieved the public hearing would be rescheduled.

"It was a wise decision," said DeKalb resident Bill Trapp, who stood toward the back of the room and said he came to the hearing "with an open mind."

"It's going to affect all property owners," he said. "I want to know if it will affect where my power comes from, if it opens the door to more companies [building wind turbines]."

Ellen LaRosa, who lives in Willow Creek Township in Lee County, said that where she stood in the room was uncomfortably warm, and that she was "impressed" at how DeKalb County officials dismissed the meeting based on room conditions.

"They want to do it right," she said, referring to county officials' decision to extend the public hearing.

The Lee County Board approved the project Tuesday, and several Lee County residents came to the DeKalb County hearing, LaRosa said. An additional 18 wind turbines would be erected in parts of Lee County if DeKalb County officials approve the project.

Although the developer's attorney had asked to continue the public hearing Thursday, NextEra spokeswoman Mary Wells said afterward that the large crowd was a healthy indication.

"We had a huge turnout of supporters," she said. "It's a good thing, when the process allows people the opportunity to speak."

Others wished that opportunity had been given Thursday. One of those is Mel Hass, who heads the Citizens for Open Government with members mostly from southern parts of DeKalb County. The citizens' group also protested a similar wind farm proposal in 2003, he said.

"To go through this a second time shouldn't be wished on anybody," Hass said. "However, it gives us more time to work on it."

If approved, the company plans to erect the 400-foot-tall turbines this summer, with a targeted completion date in December.

What's next?

• The public hearing will be rescheduled for a different venue, to be determined by Planning and Zoning Department staff. By law, a public hearing notice must be published 15 days before the public hearing.

• Pending the rescheduled public hearing date, the DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee could hear the proposal in March, which could be followed by final approval from the DeKalb County Board in April.


Source: http://www.daily-chronicle....

FEB 20 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19175-overcrowding-postpones-public-hearing
back to top