By Bob Balgemann

Requests for one-year extensions on special use permits, issued in 2018 for three solar projects in unincorporated Boone County, have been denied in split votes of the county board.

The first request was referred to as Kish II on 30 acres in an A-1, agricultural preservation district in Flora Township, west of Wheeler Road and north of Rosetter Road. County Planner Izzy Mandujano told the board at its Dec. 16 meeting that a one-year extension—the board only may issue extensions of one year—had been issued last year. Should this one be approved, the new deadline for the project would be December 2022.

She explained that state legislation approved in September, known as the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, would create incentives for solar projects. “So, that means these projects will again be put into the (state) lottery, to see if they will be funded.”

Board Vice Chairperson Sherry Giesecke asked where that funding would come from.

“Federal government,” Planner Mandujano answered.

Opposition to granting a second extension immediately came from board member Jonathan Van Laar.

“I feel that I keep voting on extensions for these projects,” he said. “I will not be in favor of this. I think they either have to get the project in the ground, or stop.” He added: “Also, it (project) is using prime agricultural land, which I love too much to put solar panels on.”

Board member Rodney Riley agreed. “I think we’ve kicked the can down the road long enough,” he said.

Mandujano said the proposals in question were community projects and quite a bit smaller than commercial. “They do rely on funding,” she said.

The motion to approve the one-year extension for Kish II failed in a 5-5 vote with newly seated board member Tom Walberg voting present. Board member Ray Larson was absent.

“Yes” votes were cast by board members Bill Robertson, Steve Schabacker, Cherie Bartelt, Freddy De La Trinidad and Chairman Karl Johnson. Voting “no” were board members Riley, Van Laar, Dave Wiltse, Ryan Curry and Vice Chairperson Giesecke.

Next up was the Ogdenville request on 33.5 acres in Bonus Township, west of Garden Prairie Road and north of Route 20.

“Is this the first or second extension?” Wiltse asked.

“Second,” Mandujano replied.

The motion to grant this requested extension also failed in a 5-5-1 vote, with the same breakdown of board members as in the first vote.

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