New wind hearings begin

Gordon Woods / Journal — About 250-300 people filled The Ababail banquet room on Tuesday night for the first of a new round of hearings conducted by the DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals to consider a special use application for the Alta Farms II wind energy project. This is Tradewind Energy’s second application for the permit.

Tug-of war continues over lease signatures

CLINTON — A tug-of-war is taking place between county officials and Tradewind Energy over the subject of signatures and their function in the Alta Farms II special use permit application.  DeWitt County Zoning Board of Appeals member David Waters raised the issue Tuesday with Tradewind’s attorney Jim Griffin.

The ZBA began the first in a new round of hearings Tuesday night for the second special use application submitted by Tradewind for the Alta Farms II wind energy project.  During the nearly year-long process so far to approve the permit, county zoning administrator Angie Sarver and Tradewind officials have sparred over whether two signatures are required on leases that involve absentee landowners.

Sarver has said that, during her time as zoning administrator, she always has required two signatures for special use applications that involve absentee landowners, the signature of the landowner and the signature of the person managing the land.

Attorney for Tradewind, Jim Griffin, has argued that two signatures are not necessary in those cases, that the person managing the property has signatory powers.

During Tuesday’s hearing, ZBA member David Waters probed Griffin on the issue of the six signatures in question.

“If that’s all they needed, why wouldn’t you get them,” Waters asked.

“Because we already have obtained the consent through the lease agreements with these landowners, and we’ve provided extensive evidence of that in the application,” Griffin answered.

Griffin said Tradewind did not view the submission of dual signatures on leases of absentee landowners as mandatory and felt the documentation presented was sufficient.

Waters said he understood Griffin’s response but asked why Tradewind would not provide those signatures anyway at the request of the zoning administrator.

“Because we already had the consent from the owners,” Griffin said.

“That’s the only thing holding this up, yet you won’t provide it,” Waters said.

“We didn’t view that as holding it up,” Griffin responded.

While the topic of signatures has been a key issue some county officials have with the Alta Farms II application, some officials also feel the decommissioning plan for the project is insufficient.  Some officials also have expressed they feel language regarding the aircraft warning lighting system is vague.

Tradewind officials have argued they cannot apply with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the type of lighting system the county requires until the county board approves the system.  Some county officials have disagreed.

With regard to the signatures, Griffin said his client’s position was based on the county wind energy ordinance.

“Our submissions would show that our landowners have all authorized us to file these applications,” Griffin said.  “If you read attachment C, there are hundreds of pages there evidencing consent by our landowners; that’s in black and white in the application.”

“You’re making a big deal out of not getting those six (signatures),” Waters said.  “As you said, it’s not required, but she (Sarver) asked for it.”

“We’re not making a big deal out of it,” Griffin said.  “We’re confident we provided more than sufficient information to demonstrate that we had the authority to file this application.”

Sarver answered questions from Griffin at the beginning of the hearing, testifying she always had required dual signatures from absentee landowners for special use permits.  She said this was the first case in which that practice had been questioned.

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