Divided board OKs solar farms

September 12, 2018

The Kankakee County Board on Tuesday approved two more solar farms, including one next to Kankakee opposed by most of the city’s representatives.

The Kankakee site is just outside of city limits on land at the northwest corner of U.S. Route 52 and River Road.

Owned by the Yonke family, it is on land long zoned as industrial, yet it remained farmland.

The county said it had received a letter from Kankakee that it planned to annex the site of the proposed solar farm, but the city had yet to make any effort toward annexation.

The county has zoning authority for the proposed site, but the city has influence under state law in the buffer zone. If the city had filed an official objection to the solar farm, the county would have needed a three-fourths of vote of the board to approve it, officials said.

The county said it received no such objection.

The board voted 12-11 to allow the solar farm. Only a majority vote was needed.

In a later interview, board chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, who voted against the project, said the area of the solar farm is supposed to be for commercial and industrial uses, noting all utilities are available.

“The city, for some strange reason, didn’t object,” he said. “(The solar farm) locks it up.”

By a wider margin, the board approved a solar farm between Bradley and Manteno. It is at northeast corner of 6000N Road and 2000E Road.

Manteno Mayor Tim Nugent wrote a letter for the project, saying it would provide renewable energy, jobs and tax revenue for the area.

Delbert Skimerhorn, the county’s zoning official, said Bradley and Manteno had worked out a deal in which Manteno would officially weigh in on zoning decisions north of 6000 Road and Bradley to the south.

Bradley Village Administrator Catherine Wojnarowski cited the “risks” of having a solar farm in the area in question. She said the project goes “against the grain” of future commercial and recreational growth, as outlined in village plans. The project, she said, limits the creation of “strong revenue streams.”

The board voted 17-6 for the project. Dissenting were Republicans Jim Vickery, and Jim Stauffenberg and Democrats Mike LaGesse, Pat Polk, George Washington and Robert Ellington-Snipes.

Both of the projects will be owned by out-of-town solar companies.

By the votes

County board voted 12-11 for solar farm near Kankakee:

Yes: Jim Tripp, R; Bill Olthoff, R; Roger Hess, R; Mike Mulcahy, R; Jim Byrne, R; Todd Sirois, R; Mike Hildebrand, R; Janis Peters, R; Sally Evans, R; Tinker Parker, R; Ron Kinzinger, R; Ray Fairfield, R

No: George Washington, D; Michael LaGesse, D; Jim Stauffenberg, R; Jim Vickery, R; Patricia Polk, D; Robert Ellington-Snipes, D; Carol Webber, R; Stephen Einfeldt, R; Elisabeth Dunbar, D; Michael Zenz, R; Andy Wheeler, R

Absent: Chris Tholen, R; Stephen Liehr, R; Shane Ritter, R; Samuel Payton, D

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