Champaign County Board committee advances solar-farm proposals

Champaign County Board committee advances solar-farm proposals

URBANA — Five solar farms proposed for three properties in rural Champaign County have advanced another step toward becoming a reality.

On Thursday evening, the Champaign County Board's environment and land-use committee voted to advance all three proposals to the full county board for final approval at its Nov. 27 meeting.

Two of the three plans are advancing with the group's recommendation, while officials deadlocked on issuing any guidance about the other.

All three plans are proposed by San Francisco-based FFP IL Community Solar LLC.

The two proposals that received "recommended" status passed 4-2 and are substantially similar, with each calling for construction of two side-by-side community solar farms, with each individual farm having a 2-megawatt capacity. One set is to be built in a field east of a house at 2232A County Road 1000 N in rural Sidney, and the other at the southwest corner of County Roads 2350E and 1700N in rural St. Joseph.

At least two board members appeared to oppose the loss of farmland.

"This is one of the fine farms that has prime farmland that can't be replaced," said Jodi Eisenmann, R-District 1.

Aaron Esry, R-District 3, voiced similar concerns.

The other proposal calls for construction of one 2-megawatt community solar farm to be built 600 feet north of Schuren Nursery on the west side of County Road 2200 E in rural St. Joseph.

The committee deadlocked 3-3 on this plan, moving it forward without a recommendation.

"This is even closer to a main water source, being the Salt Fork," said Jim Goss, R-District 1. "I don't agree with this."

"This is in an area that could some day be part of St. Joe," said James Quisenberry, D-District 10.

St. Joseph Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges spoke out against two of the plans.

"I am here to express concerns with the two proposed solar farms north of our village boundaries," she said. "Both of them are within our mile-and-a-half extraterritorial jurisdiction.

"As we have long experienced, the county and municipalities must work together within our shared jurisdictional limit that is beneficial and respectful of each agency's planning efforts. This is why it was surprising to learn that the solar farm zoning changes reduced permitting to the one-half mile limit."

Fruhling-Voges told the committee there is potential for growth north of Interstate 74.

"I am concerned about property values," she said. "That would be an impact for residential and commercial growth."

County Board Chairman C. Pius Weibel was sent a letter signed by Fruhling-Voges, Savoy Village President Joan Dykstra and Mahomet Village President Sean Widener supporting maintaining the mile-and-a-half jurisdiction and asking for a requirement that affected municipalities consider a resolution accompanying solar farm applications to the county.

The letter was also endorsed by Sidney Mayor Charles White and Ogden Mayor Gabe Clements.