Proposed solar development for McHenry-owned Petersen Farm raises questions

A developer has proposed putting solar panels on about
12 acres on the city-owned Petersen Farm property, but some are concerned the use isn’t the right fit.

Minnesota-based SolarStone wants to lease 30 to 40 acres from the city and develop a clean-energy facility on 12 acres of the property.

The company wants a 35-year lease and proposes paying the city about $1 million over the course of the project’s lifespan. The operators would be obligated to decommission the solar farm at the end of the operating period.

Some have raised concerns about allowing long-term use. McHenry Landmark Commission member Jeff Varda said he wanted City Council members to align any future developments with an overall plan for Petersen Farm.

Other communities have used similar properties to bring in economic development through agricultural and historical tourism, Varda said.

“The issue with history in McHenry is it is pretty interesting, first of all,” Varda said. “It’s worth saving. It’s worth having, and I think we are getting close to the point to where we need to think about what we are going to do to preserve it.”

The city acquired the 104-acre property, including the farm and wooded areas, from Robert Petersen in 1998.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Bill Hobson said the use of solar energy would not disturb the property.

“Should the city decide to further investigate the solar option, it would not affect the house or any of the buildings at all,” Hobson said. “Nor the oak savanna, and only minimally the amount of farmable property that would remain.”

Second Ward Alderman Andrew Glab expressed trepidation about giving up use of the land for 35 years.

“We don’t know what is going to happen in five years, much less 35 years,” Glab said. “There is a lot of uncertainty about what the long-term ramifications are.”

The City Council will discuss the matter at a future date.

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