County Board OKs solar projects

By John A. Ballentine
TOULON – The Stark County Board of Supervisors gave the green light to three solar projects located in the county during a Tuesday meeting.

A Bradford solar project on land owned by Deborah Knobloch was approved, as well as one on land owned by MDK Farms, in Bradford.

A Wyoming solar project on land owned by Gill Enterprise, LLC was objected to by Wyoming rural resident Brian Poeppel. Poeppel said the 300-foot set-back of the solar project was too close to his residence. Poeppel said he was informed by a Clean Energy Design Group representative that the solar panels could be relocated 1,000 feet from Poeppel’s residence.

Gill Enterprise owners had not agreed to the 1,000-foot set-back and objected, stating the 300-foot set-back was located on farm ground that is not farmable.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Dan Griffin, a Clean Energy Design Group representative, said he was mistaken when he had said at a prior board of appeals meeting that the 1,000 foot set-back was possible.

The county board voted in favor of the 300-foot set-back because it complies with the solar energy ordinance that states the minimum distance for a solar panel is 300 feet from a residence. Special Use permits are the initial step in establishing a solar farm on land.

The process calls for solar farm applications to be submitted to the State for approval. Currently, there are approximately 7,000 applications that are entered into a lottery system statewide wherein approximately 40 applications will be approved.

Although a landowner applies for a Special Use permit, the odds of the solar farm being installed are extremely slim due to the lottery process the State of Illinois has established.

In addition to the solar special use permits, Fred Sams, of Vineyard Road, Toulon, was granted rezoning for his property to switch from commercial to agricultural status.

Bellwether, LLC has been approved to be paid for an operational review of the county clerk and recorder’s office that it performed. Before fees are raised by the county, such as various document recordings, the State requires a review study to be completed that justifies the raising of fee charges. Stark County fees will increase slightly, but are still less than what surrounding counties charge for similar services.

In other action, amendments to the Stark County Health Department food ordinance were approved. In the past, the health department scored numerically a business in the food preparation field, but that is no longer the case. The health department will inform a business of what practices in food preparation need changing or improving. The health department will now be like an advisor to businesses concerning those changes or improvements.

• The Stark County public defender is considered a part-time employee instead of a full-time employee. This status is to conform to certain State statutes.
• Angie Zarvell, of the Regional Office of Education, presented her new budget to the board and has requested $15,000 from Stark County as its share of operational expenses. The Regional Office of Education encompasses the counties of Stark, Bureau and Henry.
Bureau and Henry Counties’ share of expenses are significantly higher compared to Stark’s. Stark’s share represents 8.1 percent of the total cost.

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