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County denies solar farm at former landfill

DIXON – The Lee County Board denied its first solar farm proposal that asked to develop on a former landfill in the northeastern part of the county.

ITS Solar LLC was looking to build a 2-megawatt solar farm on about 18.4 acres of the old landfill in Reynolds Township near Gurler and South Meridian roads owned by the Rochelle Wildlife Conservation Club.

The County Board rejected the proposal in a 12-9 vote last week, the first denial of a pool of almost 20 potential solar projects that the group has OK’d.

The Zoning Board gave the project a favorable recommendation earlier this month with conditions that no wires be buried at the site, the company will grow pollinator-friendly ground cover, and the 7-foot chain link fence be green for aesthetics.

Zoning Board member Glen Hughes also said the project should meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards given the property’s past, according to meeting minutes.

The County Board approved five other special use permits for proposed solar farm projects and went against four unfavorable recommendations by the Zoning Board.

One approved was from Georgia-based SolAmerica Energy LLC to build a 2-megawatt solar farm on about 17 acres at 2051 Lowell Park Road owned by Edwin and Mary Yingling about 1,000 feet west of Lowell Park not far from city limits.

The Zoning Board rejected it in a 3-2 vote because of the property’s high level of prime farmland and opposition from the Dixon City Council.

Prime soil was also the reason for denying three other projects that the County Board ultimately approved.

Those projects were from SolAmerica wanting to build a 2-megawatt solar farm on about 15 acres of land owned by Eugene Leffelman at Tower Road and U.S. route 52 in Sublette Township, and two projects from Mary Lahman Sollenberger to build two 2-megawatt systems on her land at Willow Road and Interstate 88 in Bradford Township as well as two more 2-megawatt systems on adjacent land in Franklin Grove Township.

County Board member Judy Truckenbrod said she was concerned that they were not following the Zoning Board’s recommendations.

The last project, approved by both boards, was by SolAmerica to build two 2-megawatt solar farms on about 28 acres of land owned by Leslie and Donna Jones on Sterling Road west of Rockyford Road in Amboy Township.

Solar energy companies have been lining up projects throughout the Sauk Valley and the state in the hopes of being drawn from a lottery early next year to move forward.

Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel said even though the county has received about 20 solar farm proposals in the last year, it’s likely that only a fraction will see development.

“I would be very surprised to see us get more than five,” he said.

Next meeting

The Lee County Board next meets at 9 a.m. Dec. 18 in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The agenda will be posted at 2 days before the meeting.

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