Village of Wapella, mayor, file lawsuit to halt DeWitt wind farm

Village of Wapella, mayor, file lawsuit to halt DeWitt wind farm

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Audience members in opposition to the Alta Farms II project in DeWitt County listen as the county’s board holds an outdoor meeting Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in downtown Clinton. 

  • JEFF SMUDDE, PANTAGRAPH NEWS SERVICE

The DeWitt County Board on July 14 in Clinton holds an outdoor meeting regarding the fate of the proposed Alta Farms II project. A lawsuit has been filed to stop the project. 

  • JEFF SMUDDE, HERALD & REVIEW

The DeWitt County Board meets outdoors on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, regarding the fate of the proposed Alta Farms II project in the northwestern part of the county, at the square in downtown Clinton.

  • JEFF SMUDDE, HERALD & REVIEW

Kevin Barlow

WAPELLA — The Village of Wapella and its mayor are seeking a preliminary injunction to halt construction of a wind farm in DeWitt County.

Sherry Mears and the village filed a complaint against Enel Energy, formerly Tradewind, and DeWitt County alleging procedural measures were not followed when the DeWitt County Board voted 6 to 5 on July 14 to grant a special-use permit for the Alta Farms II industrial wind turbine project.

The lawsuit, filed in DeWitt County, asserts the county board lacked jurisdiction to enact the special-use permit because the vote did not occur within 30 days of the public meeting conducted by the Zoning Board of Appeals as required by the Illinois Counties Code. The lawsuit further alleges the county will violate the rights of the citizens of Wapella, if a wind farm is built, by depriving them of the continued use and enjoyment of their property free from negative impacts to their health, safety and welfare. Download PDF

“The village asserts that approval of the project will create nuisance conditions adversely affecting the village,” Mears said. “One of the multiple substantive claims is that the industrial wind turbine project will interfere with Doppler radar and the ability of the national weather service to adequately warn village residents of approaching storms and tornadoes. The village also claims the proximity of the industrial wind turbine project will adversely affect property values within the village and create other nuisance conditions in the village.”

The proposed project is located within 1.5 miles of the corporate limits of the village, and if built, would “cause an exodus of residents and cause the village to become a ghost town.”

The village and Mears are each plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

It is the second lawsuit filed this month against the developers of the project and county board. Earlier this month, a group of DeWitt County residents opposed to the project filed a similar lawsuit in DeWitt County.

Tom Swierczewski, senior development director at Tradewind Energy, an Enel Green Power company, and project manager of Alta Farms II released a statement at that time.

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“Since the project was proposed nearly 10 years ago, Alta Farms II has enjoyed the strong support of many local residents who have repeatedly stood up for new jobs and economic growth in DeWitt County. While we cannot comment on pending litigation, we look forward to building a first-rate wind farm that will benefit the entire community.”

Mears, though, says residents of Wapella are not behind the project.

“I stand proudly behind the residents in my little community,” Mears said. “I am here to protect them from any damage the wind turbines may cause . I definitely have the best interest of all the village and rural citizens in mind while going forward with this lawsuit. I encourage all small villages and towns to join in on the efforts to stop the building of these wind turbines in Dewitt County.

The lawsuit contends the residents of the town of about 530 people located five miles north of Clinton, will incur “adverse effects” from the wind farm.

“These adverse effects include substantial interference with the use of property owned by the Village and the citizens of Wapella due to loud, annoying noise from turbines, shadow flickering, visual disturbances from flashing lights, turning blades, massive unsightly towers, and decreasing property values,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit contends the special use permit was incomplete because it did not include the required decommissioning plan and did not contain the required signatures from the property owners leased by the company.

The lawsuit also contends that several DeWitt County board members have a conflict of interest with the wind farm, which would cause them to abstain or recuse themselves from any action with the project. One board member, Cole Ritter, was not present at the July 14 meeting because of a conflict of interest. Had he been present and abstained from the vote, as he did in an April 2019 vote, the project would have failed to pass.https://62b4df50894492af1a57c33b2bcdbb00.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

The lawsuit also charges three additional board members with conflicts of interest, who voted in favor of the project. Those include Board Chairman David Newberg who the lawsuit alleges, owns a leasehold interest in land within the footprint of the ALTA II project; board member Scott Nimmo, the business agent/president-operative of the Plasterers & Cement Masons Local 18 of Bloomington and Decatur and as a result, would benefit financially from the construction of the wind farm; and board member Camille Redman, whose husband, Terry is the head of the Democratic Party of DeWitt County, which has received indirect donations from the developers.

The lawsuit asks the court for a preliminary injunction to halt the construction of the proposed wind farm, and for a trial for which a permanent injunction would be requested.

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