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Local

DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee approves 2 solar projects … again

Nathan Wozniak (left), project development analyst for U.S. Solar, listens as DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee members, including Suzanne Willis (center) and John Frieders (right), determine how to proceed with two solar projects during their meeting Wednesday in Sycamore.
Nathan Wozniak (left), project development analyst for U.S. Solar, listens as DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee members, including Suzanne Willis (center) and John Frieders (right), determine how to proceed with two solar projects during their meeting Wednesday in Sycamore.

SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Committee is sending two proposed solar energy projects back to the County Board that board members originally sent back to the committee last week.

The committee voted, 7-0, Wednesday to approve two proposed 2-megawatt community solar gardens from U.S. Solar on Bethany Road in Cortland Township. The vote was on the condition that U.S. Solar works with a licensed landscape architect to create screening that would block at least 50 percent of the view of the project, as seen from the first floor of each residence, for the eight affected neighbors on Airport Road within seven years.

Megan Gerwig was one of the neighbors who attended the meeting and voiced concerns about a lack of communication from the developer and how proper screening would be difficult to achieve with the property having a 100-foot slope. She said she thinks the committee gave fair guidelines for U.S. Solar to follow.

“I think they listened and, hopefully, they will act in our favor,” Gerwig said.

The committee vote comes after the County Board sent the projects back for committee consideration last week amid concerns of a lack of apparent compromise between the developer and the affected neighbors. The projects will go before the County Board again during a special meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11.

More than 40 proposed solar energy projects have been submitted to the county for approval since April 1, when the solar ordinance went into effect.

Derek Hiland, community development director for the county, said during the Jan. 16 meeting that the state has not awarded any projects in the program yet. He said the opening date for developers to submit projects to the program’s lottery for developers has been pushed back to Jan. 30. The submission deadline for the lottery is Feb. 13.

Nathan Wozniak, project development analyst for U.S. Solar, said the company reached out to affected residents via certified mail and representatives have spoken to a number of residents after hearings and meetings throughout the process. He said he thinks it will be possible for the developer to meet the committee’s standards as outlined at the meeting.

“We’re hoping before the meeting that we can put together a project that fits the requirements and will satisfy the community,” Wozniak said.

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