DIXON – The potential impact of property values was discussed in the latest hearing for a proposed 1,300-acre solar farm near Eldena.
Eldena Solar LLC, which is being developed by Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy LLC, is petitioning the county for a special-use permit that would allow for a 175-megawatt solar farm in South Dixon and Nachusa townships.
The Zoning Board of Appeals heard the third round of testimony for the project from Andrew Lines of Chicago-based CohnReznick, a valuation advisory services group that has testified on behalf of Geronimo in the past for property value impact studies.
The firm did a market analysis of real estate adjacent to solar farms that had been sold, comparing properties near several developments including the 20-megawatt Grand Ridge Solar built in 2013 in Streator and a 100-megawatt North Star Solar built in 2014 in Minnesota.
Lines said he doesn't think the proposed project will have a negative impact on home values, and there was "no consistent negative impact to adjacent properties" as well as "no meaningful results of negative impact" in the study.
Zoning Board alternate member Rex Meyer asked why they didn't compare properties adjacent to larger solar farms like the one being proposed, and Lines said there aren't big enough solar developments operating at this time that could be compared.
"Right now, we're at the precipice of larger-scale projects being developed," he said.
Zoning Board member Mike Pratt asked about the productivity index for the land; it's around 118.5, meaning grade B, good farmland soils.
Community members asked about the impact to homes surrounded on three or four sides by solar arrays, and Lines said he understands how that could be concerning to a property owner but doesn't think it would be an issue.
The company is also asking for a setback variance on three parcels to 15 feet instead of 300 feet, and County Board Vice Chairwoman Marilyn Shippert asked Lines what the setbacks were for the surveyed properties.
Lines said they ranged from an average of 135 feet to 420 feet from panel to lot and from 180 feet to 615 feet from panel to house.
The next hearing will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, and the meeting will be streamed on YouTube and via Zoom.
Go to leecountyil.com for more information.