CLINTON — A lack of communication was one of the reasons given for an item appearing on the Oct. 24 county board agenda. Ultimately, that item was removed.
Under the last heading of old and new business was a “motion to appoint a substitute zoning administrator to process the Alta Farms Special Use Application and any and all subsequent related applications or permits.”
The level of completeness of the Alta Farms wind energy permit has been a matter of contention between zoning administrator Angie Sarver and members of the county board who support the project. Sarver has claimed some aspects of the application are incomplete, while board members supporting the project claim Sarver has completed her duties regarding the application.
During the Oct. 24 county board meeting, chairman David Newberg removed from the agenda a motion that asked for a substitute zoning administrator.
“We will not be discussing that or voting on that,” Newberg said. “Mrs. Sarver remains as zoning administrator overseeing all the duties and responsibilities, as she has in the past and will continue to do that.”
Newberg said any issues relating to the motion had been resolved. He then turned the matter over to land use committee chairman Terry Ferguson for additional comment.
“I guess, maybe we had a lack of communication, I don’t know,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson did not elaborate about the nature of the miscommunication.
Ferguson said it was important for people to understand the duties of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) and that they were “stand-alone” boards that are appointed by the county board.
Ferguson said the RPC had scheduled Nov. 19 to consider the resubmitted Alta Farms wind energy application. In an earlier land use committee meeting, Sarver felt the application remained incomplete, one of the reasons the county board originally rejected the application.
In that land use meeting, however, board vice chairman Camille Redman felt Sarver had fulfilled her responsibilities and that the application should move on to the RPC.
Ferguson clarified in the Oct. 24 meeting that the zoning administrator was not part of the RPC nor the ZBA, and her responsibility was simply to process the special use application, “she’s the facilitator, takes care of filing the notices …and is there for advisory to answer questions the board might have.”
Sarver said during the September land use committee meeting that she still lacked signatures she required for the application. She also expressed discomfort in accepting the application as complete since the county board had not formally accepted the Alta Farms decommissioning plan. She felt the impression was made that she could approve the project’s decomissioning plan.
Sarver emphasized she did not have the authority to accept nor deny the decommissioning plan. Also, during the land use committee meeting, Ferguson sought to have the county spend more time investigating aspects of the costs of decommissioning.
The land use committee approved in the September meeting sending the revised application on to the RPC.
Ferguson’s was the deciding vote in April against the special use permit that resulted in the county board rejecting the Alta Farms application.
Tradewind Energy attorney Jim Griffin argued successfully during the September land use committee meeting for sending the new special use application on to the RPC. Griffin said the new application satisfied the requirements of the county’s wind energy ordinance.
“The application contained all the materials required under the DeWitt County zoning ordinance,” Griffin told committee members.
Griffin felt the county’s zoning administrator failed to fulfill her responsibilty by not forwarding the Alta Farms application. He argued there was no basis to claim the application was incomplete. Sarver said she was following the same procedure she always had used for special use permits.
“Tradewind Energy has worked diligently to prepare a substantial and complete application for the Alta Farms Wind project,” Tradewind Energy senior development director Tom Swierczewski told the Clinton Journal on Wednesday “We continue to believe this is a project DeWitt County citizens can support, and we’re grateful for the encouragement we’ve received from the community.
“Like any other special use permit application, ours deserves a fair shot before the county board. Our position has been that decision-making authority over our application rests with the elected county board, and we’re grateful that the process will now move forward with a scheduled appearance before the Regional Planning Commission,” Swierczewski added. “Similarly, we believe that our appearance before the Zoning Board of Appeals should be scheduled without delay. Prolonging this process any further would be a disservice to the community and the project.”