Solar Farm Public Hearing Re-Scheduled

A scheduled public hearing on an expanded proposal for a solar electric grid farm, at the intersection of Route 20 and Johnson Road, has been moved to Apr. 16 in order for the city of Marengo to obtain more information on the exact scope of the project and other contingencies.

The potential 235-acre farm has more than doubled in size from the original 110-acre site brought to the table, last year.

“We thought it best to delay the public hearing, and request some more information on this project,” said City Administrator Josh Blakemore. “The setbacks from the roadways will be met, and it will still connect with the ComEd sub-station by Ritz Road. There are certain items that we need to know, before moving forward on it. The public hearing will be Apr. 16.”

 The project is being presented by Marengo Solar LLC, a consortium comprised of SunEast Development, Energy Renewal Partners, and Enel Green Energy. Cost estimates range from a $25-$30 million investment would place approximately 60,000 solar panels on either side of Johnson Road, and require annexation agreement as well as zoning variances, in order to comply with issuance of a special use permit. It must also finalize an agreement with Com Ed, prior to a possible application for state incentives through the Future Energy Jobs Act.

One primary concern that has been raised is the soil quality of the parcels, after it is decommissioned. The group has indicated that the life expectancy of the solar panels in the array is 40 years. The Will County Board recently postponed action on three separate 20- acre parcels being eyed for solar farm installations, due to similar questions that also extended to infrastructure layouts such as drain tiles and piping on the sites.

County Board Tables Potential Fraternite Settlement Discussion

The Mc Henry County Board set aside discussions on a settlement to resolve civil litigation brought against it, by the Fraternite of Notre Dame Order, during its Mar. 19 regular session. The matter had been listed as an agenda item, possibly signaling a thaw in the dispute through a negotiated accord but was ultimately tabled until an Apr. meeting.

 The board had voted to deny a request by the Order for a special use permit at their rural Marengo county property during its Sept. 15, 2015 session by a 21-2 vote, subsequently prompting the suit’s initiation on constitutional grounds and overt denial of religious freedoms.

At issue is the Order’s request for a permit to build and occupy a boarding school for boys and girls, an assisted living facility for the elderly with hospice care, a bakery, a brewery, a winery with sampling room, a larger gift shop, and dormitory for student and staff housing at their site.

“As I understand it, the matter was tabled for future discussions,” said James C. Geoly, the litigant attorney, representing the order. “We are involved productive settlement talks and working very hard on getting this settlement accomplished. The delay is no one’s fault, it’s just taking a little bit longer.”

The petition process also endured a series of contentious hearings at the McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals level in 2015, and received a 4-3 neutral vote indicating no clear recommendation for the county board. Testimony and comment at the ZBA hearings included the Order’s representatives, a cadre of nearby residents from the Harmony Hills Estates subdivision, and Coral township officials.

A counter-petition, with more than 800 signatures, contended the Order’s proposal essentially constituted a commercial enterprise in a rural area.

The permit sought approval for the expansion on an additional 30 acres of property, and was viewed as augmenting a previous special use permit that was granted in 2005 for their property at 10002 Harmony Hill Road. Particulars of the Order’s lawsuit noted that several businesses including a golf course serving alcohol operate nearby the property and obtained code licensure.

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