Library filed under General from Illinois

Number of landowners key to petition

The issue: The right of citizens to petition for legislation Our view: An important right that should be protected Opponents of wind farm projects presented the Stephenson County Board a petition signed by 1,800 landowners last week, citing a little-used state law that empowers citizens to change how legislation is approved by the county board, by petition. Statutes dictate that validated signatures representing 5 percent of the landowners in a county can require a "super majority," or three-fourths approval on legislation being considered by the board. In this case, wind farm opponents sought to petition the county board to prevent it from adopting a revision to the zoning ordinance that changes permitted uses for land in the prime agriculture category. County officials put the petition aside, and after further consideration, discussion turned to whether the exact number of landowners in Stephenson County could be determined. Land ownership can be confused by trusts, marital status, estate holdings and other legal "tools." Regardless of your opinion on wind farms, preserving the right of citizens to initiate action through petition is a vital right in our democratic system of government. In such cases when an electorate is unable to find sufficient consideration for its opinion through its elected representatives, the opportunity to prompt action through independent petition is a viable alternative.
22 Jul 2007

County: 1,800 signatures not relevant to landownership

County zoning regulations state that a protest containing signatures from 5 percent of county landowners will alter how a vote is taken on zoning changes. If a protest is ruled valid, the changes would have to be approved by a three-fourths majority vote of the County Board, as opposed to a simple majority. On July 11, the county declined to recognize the protest and the zoning changes were approved in a narrow 12-9 vote. County officials maintained that the county's ordinance did not clearly define how many signatures were needed to equal 5 percent. They also said they could not determine the total number of landowners in the county.
19 Jul 2007

Wind farm zoning changes may be challenged in court

With the approval Wednesday of several controversial zoning changes, Stephenson County now has a new process for evaluating wind-farm projects. Even so, county officials are uncertain whether approval of the zoning changes will be challenged in court and how such legal action might affect future projects. "I have no idea what's going to happen there," said Terry Groves, director of planning and zoning for the county. After a heated and emotional meeting Wednesday night, the County Board voted 12-9 in favor of the zoning changes.
12 Jul 2007

Wind Farm Zoning Change

A controversial zoning change for wind farms has gone through in Stephenson County, but a lawsuit may not be far behind. In a 12 to 9 vote, the full county board has changed wind turbines from industrial to agricultural zoning, thereby reversing the zoning board's decision from last week. Neighbors say the board's decision Wednesday night strips them of their first amendment rights. The zoning change means wind companies no longer have to apply for a special use permit and therefor neighbors will no longer have a chance to voice their concerns at a public hearing before a new wind farm is built.
12 Jul 2007

Lots of reasons to keep zoning as it is

I grew up, operated and still actively participate with my son on our family farm. Over all that time I have seen many trends in the agricultural business, but wind power generation is not one I consider to be agricultural based. Yet, our county leadership wants to allow these types of facilities permitted uses in our agricultural zones without any zoning board review or forum for public protest. The claim is to streamline the system but all it actually does is open the door for more and more wind turbines to be scattered about without any formal protest opportunity for neighboring land owners.
11 Jul 2007

Bad timing makes bad policy

Acting now, at a time when Stephenson County is being sued by two property owner groups opposed to proposed wind farm developments, subverts the public process. Adopting this proposal would create an opportunity for the developers to withdraw plans for the two wind farms now being considered, thereby negating the lawsuits. These same developers, if the revision is adopted by the county, would then resubmit plans for the wind farms and public input on the process would be limited to hearings, hosted by the developers and attended by county officials who are not answerable to the ballot box.
11 Jul 2007

Building wind farms for profit, not need

Simply put the Oak Prairie wind farm is a good example of how developers and the county boards are ripping off the American taxpayers who fund these projects through subsidies. They are simply locating these projects wherever they can find a farmer/landowner who does not care about his neighbors and they think the resistance will be light (low income areas). There is no concern for power output. This is costing us all millions of dollars; many MW's of energy and gives the wind power industry poor performance numbers.
11 Jul 2007

Caution urged on pipeline plan

BLOOMINGTON -- With companies eyeing rural land for wind farms and pipelines, landowners must quickly learn to protect their interests when negotiating contracts. "Be extremely cautious and careful when you're first approached ... There's no rush (to sign)," said Matt Jontry, a lawyer for the Illinois Farm Bureau, speaking to McLean County residents Monday about a proposed crude-oil pipeline that would cut through Central Illinois farmland.
10 Jul 2007

Boone awaits judge’s ruling on wind farm disagreement

BELVIDERE - A judge is expected to decide by the end of the month whether the Boone County Board was right to kill a proposed wind farm north of Caledonia and Poplar Grove. Judge Gerald Grubb heard final arguments June 15 in the long-running case. His ruling is scheduled for July 30. The wind-farm project is being spearheaded by Wallace Ramsay of Caledonia, and calls for wind turbines as tall as 400 feet.
9 Jul 2007

Wind farm still awaits state's OK

For seven months, potential energy-producing wind has whipped through eastern Lee County completely unharnessed. Even though all local governments involved, from the surrounding communities to the county board, have signed off on the proposed Big Sky Wind Farm near Amboy, construction has yet to begin. That's because the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has been slow to sign off on a proposal to expand the Lee County Enterprise Zone, said John Thompson, president of the Dixon Area Chamber of Commerce.
8 Jul 2007

Windfarms subject of upcoming meeting

Iroquois County officials are working to update their wind energy ordinance in advance of potential development of windfarms in the Sheldon area. The County Board's Planning and Zoning Committee discussed the ordinance on Friday, getting input from one of the two firms, said Zoning Administrator Gloria Schleef. She and County Board member Dale Schultz of Clifton recently attended a seminar on wind energy conducted by the Department of Energy Illinois Wind Working Group at Illinois State University. "I think we're getting a little more educated about this now," Schleef said. "Everybody is getting a little more familiar with wind towers and what is the best way to approach having a fair ordinance for everybody."
7 Jul 2007

Geneseo delays decision on wind turbine

A decision on the site for a $5.5 million wind turbine tower just west of town has been delayed a month, according to Geneseo's mayor. In June, the Geneseo City Council voted 5 to 3 in favor of negotiating a contract with Johnson Controls to build the 2.5 megawatt wind turbine. The council also approved acceptance of a $1.385 million Illinois Clean Energy Grant for the tower's installation. But a few obstacles came before the council. During the June meeting, one of the people who would live next to the tower said he didn't want to see it from his backyard.
6 Jul 2007

Zoning board rejects wind farm changes

After a lengthy meeting Thursday night, the Stephenson County Zoning Board of Appeals voted not to recommend proposed changes to the county's zoning code that would alter the wind-farm application process. The zoning board Thursday listened to testimony from a variety of objectors to the proposed changes. At the end of the nearly four-hour meeting, the board voted unanimously not to recommend the wind-farm changes. Officials say the consensus of the board Thursday was that they could not recommend the altered zoning ordinance because the changes would limit the public's ability to object to future wind-farm projects.
6 Jul 2007

Judge rules wind test towers can stay

URBANA - Two wind test towers built in Champaign County this year can stay up for now after a decision Friday in a case filed by neighbors of one of the towers. Champaign County Common Pleas Judge Roger Wilson Friday ruled that the towers, on Talbot and Ault roads, can stay up while the permits that allowed them to be built are appealed. Wilson Friday also declined to grant motions from two power companies' attorneys to dismiss the case.
6 Jul 2007

Judge rules wind farm lawsuit is not yet settled

Opponents of a wind farm project in McLean and Woodford counties have been spared the added costs of filing a new lawsuit to try to stop construction. McLean County Judge Charles Reynard has rejected a motion filed by attorneys for the White Oak Wind Energy Center and the McLean County Board, which argued that the lawsuit was already settled in March. That’s when the judge allowed the project to continue because the full county board hadn’t issued the special use permit yet.
6 Jul 2007

County proposes zoning changes that would alter wind farm process

Stephenson County officials say proposed changes to the county’s zoning code will streamline the application process for wind farm companies and make it more cost-effective to bring such projects to this area. Opponents of the initiative, however, say these changes could be a way for the county to sidestep lawsuits seeking to stop two wind-farm companies from building in this county. They also worry that the changes will limit the public’s ability to formally object to future wind-farm projects, since under the new proposed system such projects would no longer go before the county Zoning Board of Appeals for evaluation.
5 Jul 2007

New wind farm debate

The 4th of July may be over, but fireworks were still going off Thursday night in a Stephenson County courtroom, during a heated wind farm debate. Stephenson County's zoning director says what's at stake is a simple matter of updating the county's ordinances to make them more efficient. But the dozens of residents gathered for Thursday night's zoning meeting say efficiency comes at the cost of their rights to speak out and petition government.
5 Jul 2007

County attempting an end around on zoning

On July 5, 2007 at 7 P.M. in the county building, Chairman John Blum and his cronies will attempt to pass legislation that will completely change the meaning of agriculture. They are going to eliminate the current definition of what can be known as agriculture so it will suit their attempts to ramrod wind turbines into our area.
4 Jul 2007

Stephenson County Amendment Takes Public Out of Wind Farm Issue

Stephenson County considers a few amendments that would make putting a wind farm up as easy as striking a deal with a private farm owner. A few residents who don't like the changes because they say it silences them. Many of them have complaints about the windmills being next door. But some board members say it's just a way to speed up an "arduous" process. Lancaster Voices member Mike King says, "I do hear the turbines, they're not quiet. I do see the shadows."
4 Jul 2007
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