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Solar farm gets thumbs down

August 7, 2018

KANKAKEE — Kevin McRaven says he received no notice that a company was proposing a solar farm next to land he bought a few months ago west of Kankakee.

“If I had, I would be here with legal counsel tonight,” McRaven told Kankakee County’s zoning board Monday. “I purchased the property in March of this year. Your records have not kept up with the mailing address. The only reason I know about this is the owner I bought it from was nice enough to tell me a couple days ago.”

He said he had his lawyer check with the county before the purchase to see whether any companies were seeking special-use permits for solar or wind farms nearby.

“Knowing what I know now, I would have gotten out of (buying this property),” McRaven said. “I have a little family that I want to raise in a nice rural community.”

McRaven, who plans to build a house on the land, asked the board to delay its hearing, so he and others would have more time to prepare. The board went one step further — it gave the project a thumbs down.

The proposed solar farm would have been on about 20 acres near West 1000S Road, near Bonfield.

Similar to most solar farm companies, Borrego brought forward an appraiser who testified to the zoning board that the proposed farm would have no adverse effect on nearby property values. The appraiser presented an analysis on property sales near solar farms in the short history of such projects in Illinois and Indiana.

But neighbors of the proposed solar farm were doubtful.

“You have two houses that are the same and are selling for the same price. One is across the road from a solar farm. The other one is across from a farm. I think the one across from the farm sells first,” said Donald Kinzler, a civil engineer.

Another resident, Mike Damptz, said he wouldn’t have bought his house if he knew that a solar farm would be built outside his front window. He showed a photo of the current view to the board.

“This is our lives,” he said.

Patricia McGarr, the appraiser hired by Borrego, defended her research, saying she has been appraising properties for many years. Typically, she said, it takes physical damage from things, such as limestone quarries, to negatively affect property values. Quality of school districts also plays a big role, she said.

Borrego’s Derek Bus said he visited neighbors to discuss the company’s plans and left fliers with those not home.

“We wanted to address any concerns they may have,” he said.

The board voted 4-1 to recommend against granting a special-use permit to Borrego. Member Beth Scanlon proposed the rejection, which she said was based on public comment.

The issue next goes to the county board’s planning and zoning committee and then the county board itself.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the zoning board delayed consideration of a planned solar farm on Armour Road a mile east of Interstate 57. The village of Bradley is evaluating the proposal and has yet to state a position on it.

The board said it delayed the matter because the issue was not worded correctly on the meeting agenda.

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