AP NEWS

Rock Falls objects to county solar farm

January 1, 2019

ROCK FALLS – City officials are objecting to a proposed community solar farm just outside city limits.

The Whiteside County Board is considering a special-use permit for the solar farm, which would be at 25856 W. Rock Falls Road/U.S. Route 30, near the intersection with Lawrence Road and also near Oneighty Church.

Sunrise Energy Ventures, a solar development company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, applied for the permit.

Although the project is in the county’s jurisdiction, the city has a say in the matter because it is within a 1.5-mile radius of its borders. The thinking behind the rule is that there is a high likelihood that land so close to the city limits soon could be annexed.

The company’s request was sent to the Rock Falls Plan Commission for consideration on Dec. 13. After listening to a presentation by City Administrator Robbin Blackert, the panel unanimously recommended that the city object to the project on the grounds that it is incompatible with the comprehensive plans of both the city and county.

The proposed project site is in an agricultural area, and the city contends it should continue to be used for farming until it can be developed for more traditional commercial purposes.

The city has written a letter to the Whiteside County Board officially objecting to the solar farm.

“According to both the county and the city’s adopted comprehensive plans, existing uses, including farming and rural uses, should continue in those areas until more urban development is market-feasible. Therefore, the property should remain used for farming and rural purposes to maintain its compatibility with the surrounding properties,” it says.

City officials also are concerned that the solar farm would negatively impact property values in the area and hamper future development opportunities that would increase the city’s tax base.

“The project does not provide housing or any significant job creation plan within a mile and a half of the city’s current corporate boundaries,” the letter says.

Also included in the letter was officials’ disappointment that there were no representatives from Sunrise Energy Ventures at the city’s Plan Commission meeting to provide information about the project. Consequently, the panel said it couldn’t endorse the project without an opportunity to have the company address its concerns.

Mayor Bill Wescott drew up the letter, which is addressed to County Administrator Joel Horn, and with the council’s approval Wednesday, it will be sent to members of the County Board and the Building and Zoning department.

If, as expected, the council approves a resolution to send the letter, the County Board could overrule it, but would need a three-fourths majority vote.

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