It seemed to some that public outrage over a proposed solar farm in Eureka had fallen on deaf ears. But on Oct. 16, the Woodford County Board made it loud and clear that they were listening … by saying nothing at all.
After consulting with Woodford County State’s Attorney Greg Minger, the board declined to second a motion to pass the application of Sol America Energy for a special use permit to build a $2 million solar farm southwest of Marshall Road. The application has been volleyed between the county board and the Zoning Board of Appeals since it was filed March 21.
County statues state that the county board may not vote down such an application; it may only approve it or shuttle it back to the ZBA, the only governing body with the power to reject it. Due to a small, legal loophole, however, when the time came for a motion, board members stared silently and the application died there.
“With the the way things have gone, I didn’t know what to expect,” Eureka Mayor Scott Zimmer said, “but to have all of the board members not make a motion, that was a real surprise to me.”
The move staved concerns about the two-megawatt 25-30 acre solar farm that was proposed for on land just south of Lakeview Acres Subdivision.
Considered a “passive” power plant, noise levels are projected to reach “just above talking level”; too loud, Zimmer said for people hoping to enjoy the quiet countryside that sits just beyond their back doors.
They are worried about their property values, as well, he said, and concerned with the loss of the aesthetic value they find living in a rural setting.
In addition, there were concerns of the wreckage that could be caused by damaging winds on what many consider “a field of glass.”
“I’ve kind of heard mixed reactions. Certainly, there are many who feel relieved and are happy that the solar farm has not been approved, but there are others who are still reserved,” Zimmer said. “We’re a little hesitant to feel relief because of what the future could bring. We’re hoping it doesn’t come back.”
The land on which SolAmerica Energy intended to occupy is owned by Metamora resident Robert Hartman, and Zimmer said the city and the county have for some time hoped to reserve that property for residential development.
“We have new homes out here, with a lot of families who moved here to enjoy the beautiful lake and scenery,” he said. “It’s quite obvious the city would like to expand in that direction.”
Time will tell, he said, but the board’s decision to fall silent on the matter restored faith in those who were thinking that board members simply weren’t considering their grievances.
“I have spent a lot of time on this issue, and to finally just have a breather, to know that there’s not another upcoming scheduled meeting on the solar farm … I have to say, it does feel good,” Zimmer said. “We’ve finally been heard. The county board was willing to listen.”
— Woodford County Board takes a pass in solar farm —