Solar farm proposed for Antioch parcel denied at commission levels

By Gregory Harutunian for Chronicle Media

An aerial plat map outlining the 55-acre parcel along North Avenue in Antioch, that is being eyed for a solar panel farm. The $5 million investment for the parcel came with a 35-year lease. (Photo courtesy of Renewable Energies LLC)

A proposed 21-acre solar farm project, slated for a North Avenue parcel, was denied for a zoning variance and special-use permit by the Antioch Planning Commission.

Both the variance and site plan were rejected by a 3-2 vote, during a Jan. 3 session, held jointly with the village’s Zoning Board.

Despite the denial, the project now moves to a Village Board meeting for discussion, which may also include a formal approval.

San Francisco-based Renewable Properties LLC had been in discussions with the village since last April, placing the first-ever solar farm within the municipal limits. The solar farm would be built encompassing a 52-acre parcel along a southern curve of North Avenue, just east of its intersection with Deep Lake Road.

The variance was sought as most of the applicable zoning in the area is for estate homes, and agricultural use, favored by the village agencies.

“There was opposition, but those who were against it did not speak at the meeting,” said Michael Garrigan, the village’s community development director. “The applicants had a team full of people to make their presentations at the meeting. You were surprised that of more than 200 people, no one came forward to speak against it.

Village planners and the village’s own comprehensive plan had initially envisioned the area to be developed for estate homes.

“At the end of the day, it was not consistent with the vision for the land … seeking more estate properties,” Garrigan said. “We had worked with them for about a year on putting this together. There were approximately 122 track lines, and could generate a sizable amount of electricity.”

A submission by Renewable Properties indicated that the solar farm would generate enough electrical power for 538 homes, along with a $5 million investment on their part. The concept was given an informal “green-light” from the village’s advisory plan commission and incorporates a 35-year lease for the parcel.

Much of the project was taking advantage of federal legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden in 2022. It allows a 10 percent bonus to the investment tax credit applied for eligible solar or wind farm structures that align with domestic content requirements and are built in an energy community.

The denied site plan included a buffering landscape. However, it raised questions on the impact of abutting property to the west, as well as the impact on nearby wetlands. Another issue was the effect on the adjacent Redwing Slough, one of the largest avian welfare bird sanctuaries in northern Illinois.

“At this point, they can remand it back to the Zoning Board, or withdraw the proposal,” said Garrigan. “They can also proceed to the Village Board level for input.”

The Village Board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21.