DECATUR -- Macon County officials failed to provide statutory notices for a public hearing as well as essential information in-regard to the proposed wind farm project, a petition for review filed by landowners near the project’s location claims.
There are 36 plaintiffs named in the claim filed Monday in the Macon County Circuit Court, with hopes to put a stop to a plan to build 139 wind turbines across 24,000 acres near Maroa and Warrensburg.
Defendants listed includes Macon County and all 21 members of the county board, who approved the special-use permit to construct the wind farm at the board's September meeting. That includes board members Matt Brown, who voted against the project, and Grant Noland, who abstained from voting on four turbines located on property his family rents and operates on.
Other defendants includes E.On, the American unit of Germany’s largest utility company, and its subsidiary companies Twin Forks Wind Farm and EC&R O&M, which submitted the original application and would oversee operation of the wind farm.
The case seeks an end to any further development of the wind farm at its proposed location as well as to prevent the county board from assisting E.On with further site development or building permits.
Multiple causes are given in the claim for the court to overrule the county’s initial decision. Richard Porter, a Rockford-based attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the "fatal flaw" of the county’s process was in how it issued notices to residents who could potentially be affected by the wind farm of the original Aug. 11 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to discuss the project.
Illinois statute requires at least 15 days’ notice before any board of appeals, and the notices must include the time, place and date of the hearing. The case claims that various plaintiffs did not receive a notice before the required 15 days, while others say they received a notice with the wrong date of the meeting. Other plaintiffs claim they did not receive any notice at all.
“I have never seen such an egregious violation of due process,” Porter said when reached Tuesday afternoon.
Other issues the claim raises includes how residents who sought information on Twin Forks’ application were not given a copy until after the initial Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, which the case states prevented opposition from gathering information and providing its own experts to speak to the county board on the potential negative impact of the project.
Porter noted how the potential wind farms would affect the plaintiffs' property values and that the public gain from the turbines would be minimal compared to the hardships imposed on landowners. The claim notes a variety of issues that turbines could cause nearby residents, including shadow flickers, affect on wildlife and potential negative health effects from insistent noise and infrasound.
Many of the plaintiffs seek damages in excess of $50,000 for the nuisance of the process.
Officials from E.On could not be reached for comment.
Macon County Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Baggett, who advises the county board, said Tuesday afternoon he was not aware of the case and could not comment. County board Chairman Kevin Greenfield also declined to comment.
Under the special-use permit, Twin Forks Wind Farm would operate in Macon County for 30 years, with an estimated $46 million in new tax revenue generated over the project life. An estimated $32.5 million of the money would go toward the Maroa-Forsyth and Warrensburg-Latham school districts. Macon County would receive $6.1 million, while the Austin, Maroa, Illiini and Hickory Point townships would split the remaining $7.8 million.
Landowners are to collectively be paid $1 million to $2 million per year for leases.
E.ON officials had hoped construction would begin on the project by next year, though the court could put a hold on those plans as the case goes through the process.
No court date has been set.