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Residents seek hearing record in Lee County

Officials: Latest transcripts unavailable

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 1:12 a.m. CST

DIXON – The latest transcripts for Lee County's hearings for a proposed wind farm are unavailable.

That prompted objections at Tuesday's meeting of the Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals, which is considering a 53-turbine wind farm in the southwestern part of the county.

The hearings started in July.

The wind farm company, Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power, hired a court reporter to do transcripts. They have been made available to a lawyer representing some of the wind farm's opponents.

During the first couple of months, the county received the transcripts from the company. 

When Lee County attorney Frances Mitchell filed a public records request for the transcripts, State's Attorney Henry Dixon denied it, referring her to the court reporter. The reporter charges $2.50 a page; the transcripts are hundreds of pages long.

Despite Dixon's denial, the county's zoning officer, Chris Henkel, was letting people read the transcripts in his office.

Mitchell appealed the matter to the state's attorney general, arguing that because the transcripts are in the county's possession, it should release them.

In early September, the zoning board approved the transcripts. The county quickly posted them on the Internet, but hasn't put online subsequent ones.

That's because the county has apparently taken a new approach. Henkel said the county hasn't received the transcripts lately, so it doesn't have anything to release. 

"We're not paying for any of it," he said at Tuesday's meeting.

He said the county is taking the minutes of the hearings. But Franklin Grove resident Jim Timble said the minutes are inadequate. They give no details of what's going on, he said, contrary to what the board's own procedures require. Others agreed.

The procedures state that the board "shall summarize accurately the testimony of those appearing before the board or keep a verbatim transcript of hearings."

When the zoning board held meetings earlier this year to draft wind farm regulations, the county took extensive minutes giving details of the debates.

Timble wondered why the county wasn't doing the same this time. 

Henkel responded that this was a petition for a wind farm, not the drafting of rules.

Asked about the county's minutes for the last wind farm petition, Henkel said he was concerned with this current one.

Mainstream is also proposing nine turbines in Whiteside County and 19 in Bureau County. 

During the summer, Whiteside County held hearings for the proposal. The county posted transcripts online soon after getting them – putting up none of the roadblocks that Lee County has. 

Whiteside County has approved the company's proposal. 

Lee County's hearings are expected to last months. After the zoning board makes a recommendation, the County Board will vote on it.

To attend

The Lee County Zoning Board of Appeals is meeting from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 9 and 10 on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The board is holding hearings on Mainstream Renewable Power's proposal for 53 wind turbines.

For an agenda for these meetings, minutes from past meetings or more information, go to www.leecountyil.com or call 815-288-5676.

 

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