SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Senate has passed and sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker a bill aimed at resolving a conflict in eastern Illinois over which unit of local government has authority to control zoning for wind farms.
House Bill 2298 provides that only a county may enact zoning regulations for wind farms in the rural parts of a county, outside the zoning jurisdiction of incorporated cities, even in counties that don’t have countywide zoning regulations.
The bill is aimed at Douglas County, where a Houston-based company, EDP Renewables North America LLC, plans build a 200-megawatt wind farm, known as the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm.
Douglas County is one of the few counties in Illinois that does not have a general countywide zoning system, but does have specific regulations for wind farms.
In response to EDP’s plans, however, two of the townships within Douglas County – Newman and Murdock – enacted their own, stricter zoning regulations that EDP has argued would effectively preclude their development.
“The townships enacted their zoning ordinances as an attempt to prevent the construction of the Harvest Ridge Wind Farm,” a spokesperson for EDP said in an email statement.
EDP filed suit against both of the townships, arguing that the county’s rules should supersede those of the townships, while the townships have argued they have the right to enact their own codes.
House Bill 2988 would put that dispute to rest by providing that only county governments can enact zoning regulations for wind farms in unincorporated parts of a county. It would take effect immediately upon being signed into law.
Local officials lobbied against the bill, arguing that it would strip them of local control, but that argument largely fell on deaf ears.
The bill passed the House on March 27 by a vote of 95-to-12. It passed the Senate on Wednesday, April 3, by a vote of 43-to-7, sending it to Gov. Pritzker.
“We are thrilled that the Illinois Legislature has taken steps to clear up any confusion about which units of local government can enact wind energy zoning restrictions,” EDP executive vice president Ryan Brown stated in a news release.
In a separate email, the company said the wind farm, “has been and continues to be developed in accordance with existing Douglas County regulations.”