Ogle County Board: One special use permit for solar project denied, another approved

New rules of order unanimously approved


OREGON — At its monthly meeting Tuesday, the Ogle County Board unanimously denied a special use permit for one solar project, and unanimously approved another.

The denied special use permit was requested by Cenergy Power for a five-megawatt community solar project in Lincoln Township on agricultural-zoned land. The application said the project would be located on approximately 33 acres of the 68.78-acre site. 

County Board Member Dan Janes (R-Stillman Valley, District 5) led the proceedings on the special use decisions. He said the county's zoning board of appeals voted 3-1 to recommend the denial of the Cenergy Power application.

"That land has an extremely-high Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) score," Janes said. "Our committee on this supported the ZBA's findings and voted against accepting it due to the same premise. This is a fine piece of farm land. Last month, we all unanimously endorsed a resolution to support high-quality farm land. More petitions like these will come before the county board. I don't want to see us do one thing and say another. My recommendation is to deny this application."

The Lincoln Township land scored a 92 on the LESA method, which tops out at 100. LESA is a land evaluation method for cropland and integrates soil survey interpretations for important farmland classes, land capability classification, and either soil productivity or soil potential ratings. 

The approved special use permit was submitted by TPE IL OG593, LLC to allow construction and operation of a 4.99-megawatt community solar facility located in Byron Township off Meridian Road, north of the Rock River and near the Winnebago County line. The project would be located on approximately 23.4 acres of the 46.2-acre site. 

Janes said that land has a low LESA score. The zoning board of appeals voted unanimously in favor to recommend the application's approval.

"Because of the extremely low LESA score on that property, we thought this would probably be a great place for solar that doesn't interfere with anybody," Janes said. "There was no objection or residential or issue with people."

Janes said the board expects to see more solar special use permit applications in the future, with 19 possible applications currently in the works. He also added that there hasn't been negative feedback seen on increases in permitting prices that the county board recently put into place.

Rules of order

The board unanimously approved the addition of verbiage to its rules of order for meetings, concerning public comment and presentation protocols. Board Chairman John Finfrock (R, Mt. Morris, District 7) said the changes were made due to the board having a lack of "more-stringent" public comment and presentation rules in place. 

The new verbiage for public comment is as follows: “Public comment will be allowed by calling for those who would like to address the County Board. They must put their name and address on the document at the podium. The Ogle County Board is committed to providing members of the public an opportunity to speak to the board during public comment. We do not place a time limit on the comment, but we do recommend that the presenter be as concise as possible up to five minutes to ensure that our meetings conclude in a timely manner. Given the many agenda items that we deal with at every meeting we rarely have a type of video presentations.”

The new verbiage for presentations at meetings is as follows: “Board presentations will be allowed by calling the County Board chairman at least five business days in advance to schedule a board presentation. The subject should be approved by the County Board chairman and be one that is listed as a ‘General Interest’ to members of the public and suitable for both adults and children in attendance at the County Board meetings.”