DIXON – A proposed wind farm might have an unexpected hurdle if the project's opponents get their way.
On Friday, Rockford attorney Rick Porter, who is representing Hamilton Township, informed Lee County of the township board's Dec. 11 decision to file an objection to the wind farm, known as the Green River project.
Last month, the county's zoning board voted 3-2 against the project. The County Board is expected to vote on it today.
Ireland-based Mainstream Renewable Power plans 53 turbines for the county's southwestern corner.
By Porter's reading of the law, the township's written objection now means the project needs a three-fourths County Board majority for passage.
Mainstream's project manager, Vince Green, said he didn't think the three-fourths rule applies.
"At the end of the day, the lawyers will battle it out," Green said.
Porter's letter was addressed to Assistant State's Attorney Matt Klahn, who represents the county on wind farm issues.
Contacted Monday, Klahn said he was reviewing the issue and declined to comment.
In his letter, Porter referred to a state law that requires a three-fourths majority when at least one township files an objection to amendments to zoning ordinances and maps. But it's unclear whether that law applies to a vote on a wind farm's permit.
Last year, Willow Creek Township objected to a new wind farm ordinance, which was technically an amendment to the existing one.
In that case, the county acknowledged that the three-fourths requirement applied. But the county contended the township failed to properly file its objection.
According to County Board meeting minutes, a Willow Creek official presented the resolution objecting to the ordinance to officials. But then-State's Attorney Henry Dixon said the document should have been filed with him, the zoning administrator or the county clerk's office.
The dispute was irrelevant because the County Board rejected the proposed ordinance.
On Monday, Mat Boss, Mainstream's vice president of development and operations, argued in a Sauk Valley Media guest column that the proposed wind farm offers more protections to local residents than any previous one in Lee County.
He also noted the zoning board found, in a 4-1 vote, that Mainstream's petition complied with the Lee County wind farm ordinance.
"The Green River wind farm, as proposed, would bring more than $1 million a year in property taxes in Lee County," Boss wrote. "How can the County Board ignore that as members weigh their decision?"
In a full-page advertisement in Friday's Telegraph, a group calling itself Citizens Committed to Responsible Lee County Wind Energy Policy urged the County Board to follow the zoning board's recommendation.
"By recommending that a permit not be granted to Mainstream to construct the Green River Wind Project, the Lee County Zoning Board has fulfilled its obligation to protect the people of both Hamilton and East Grove townships," the ad said.
Over the last few weeks, Sauk Valley Media has surveyed County Board members on how they plan to vote on the wind farm. Fourteen couldn't be reached for comment or say they're undecided. Five are for the project, while four are against it.
Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon, said Monday night that he was leaning in favor of the project. He called the project pro-business and said he believed in the landowners' property rights.
No public comments before wind vote
DIXON – The Lee County Board won't take public comment before its decision on a controversial wind farm today.
That's in accordance with a county ordinance, officials say.
The county's zoning board heard from the public about the proposed wind farm in the course of 27 sessions of a public hearing.
The County Board usually takes public comment near the start of its meetings, but this time, it has moved that portion to near the end of the meeting.
Last year, the Whiteside County Board took no comments before it approved nine wind turbines in the southeastern part of the county.
Stuart Richter, Whiteside County's planning and zoning administrator, said an attorney general's opinion advises county boards against taking comments before their zoning decisions.
The County Board looks at the record from the zoning board in making its decisions, Richter said.
"The County Board doesn't take testimony," he said. "If the County Board doesn't get enough information, they can send it back to zoning for a further public hearing."
On Friday, Frances Mitchell, an attorney who lives in eastern Lee County, sent an email to Lee County Board Chairman Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, questioning why the county moved comments to after the board's wind farm vote.
"Plain common sense tells us that public comments after the fact are a joke. You know that. I know that. We all know that," she wrote.
The Lee County Board will meet at 9 a.m. today on the third floor of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St. in Dixon.
The board is expected to consider a wind farm in the southwestern part of the county.
Go to www.countyoflee.org or call 815-288-5676 for an agenda for this meeting, minutes from past meetings, or more information.