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McHenry County Board holds off on McHenry Township solar farm vote

Decision on McHenry Township proposal delayed; Marengo, Chemung plans OK’d

Nancy Schietzelt addresses board members during public comment period at the McHenry County Board Meeting Tuesday, July 17, 2018 in Woodstock.
Nancy Schietzelt addresses board members during public comment period at the McHenry County Board Meeting Tuesday, July 17, 2018 in Woodstock.

The McHenry County Board on Tuesday pushed back the vote on a proposal for a contentious solar farm in McHenry Township.

California-based Shabadoo Solar and Cypress Creek Renewables want to put up the panels on a 90-acre property on the northeast corner of South Solon and West Ringwood roads belonging to West Grant Development. Neighbors have opposed the plan and say it’s not the right location for a solar farm because of its proximity to the Windy Prairie Acres subdivision.

Residents also have raised concerns about environmental effects and taking the prime farmland out of production long term.

Developers requested the county push back the vote to the board’s August meeting, officials said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“They reached out on Friday and asked the matter be continued,” said Scott Jacobson, the county’s recently named assistant state’s attorney in the civil division. “The petitioner can within 180 days after the vote by the zoning board ask to have the matter continued to a certain date. They can ask for unlimited continuances.”

A majority of the zoning board voted against the proposal, 4-3, at its May 23 meeting, but the McHenry County Board has final authority on the matter.

Despite the vote, no recommendation went before the County Board because of a technicality in the board’s rules and procedures that requires a concurrence from five members in order to make a recommendation, according to the code.

The County Board on Tuesday approved two solar farm petitions from Borrego Solar Systems. The company plans to install arrays in Marengo Township and Chemung Township.

The Marengo solar farm is expected to be built on a 29-acre property located at 24704 Grant Highway between Marengo and Garden Prairie.

The McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals had recommended approval for Borrego to obtain a special use permit for the 2-megawatt solar farm. Borrego plans to lease 16 acres, and the fenced array field will be contain a little more than 12 acres, according to county documents.

The company also wants to build a solar farm on a Chemung Township property. The parcel of land is located in Chemung Township, on the east side of Route 14 north of Oak Grove Road.

Borrego plans to lease 27 acres of the 87-acre parcel, and the 3.25-megawatt system will sit on about 18 acres of the property, according to county documents.

The board voted on both proposals in a single vote. District 2 representative Jim Heisler and District 4 representative John Hammerand were the only two to vote no. Others raised concern that the conditions weren’t tight enough, but ultimately attempts to amend the conditions failed.

“At the Committee of the Whole, I raised some concerns regarding the upkeep and care of solar farms,” District 5 representative Mike Skala said. “What I am trying to achieve is to put a little more teeth into our ability as a county to hold the petitioners feet to the fire and make sure the solar farm is kept up and kept in line with the [unified development ordinance]”

Solar farm proposals have been pouring into McHenry County in part because of the recent passage of the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which calls for utility companies such as ComEd to sell at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County encouraged residents to come to the meeting to show support for solar energy in McHenry County and voiced support for the community solar during the meeting’s public comment portion.

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