Ludlow, St. Joseph solar proposals move forward to county board

URBANA — The fate of special-use permits for two private solar farms proposed for Champaign County is now in the hands of the full county board.

On Thursday night, the county’s Environment and Land Use Committee decided to advance Community Power Group’s requests regarding projects near St. Joseph and Ludlow.

The committee voted 6-0 to recommend authorizing a special-use permit for a solar farm that Community Power Group wants to build on a 36.77-acre tract of farmland adjacent to the electric substation at the southeast corner of the intersection of County Road 3300N and County Road 1300E in Ludlow Township.

“This is truly a rural setting,” Champaign County Director of Planning and Zoning John Hall said.

During the hearing, Michael Borkowski, owner of Community Power Group, brought up several details about his proposals.

He said his solar panels would not contain dangerous chemicals like cadmium.

“The panels will, ever so slowly, rotate during the course of the day,” he said. “And they don’t pose a risk to wildlife.”

Since the proposed Ludlow site is within co-op territory, current statutes don’t allow participation of solar farms providing electricity with co-ops, Borkowski said.

But he said he is proceeding in the hope that the statutes change some day.

Nobody spoke out against the Ludlow proposal during the public comment part of Thursday’s meeting.

Rural St. Joseph site
Borkowski also wants to build a 2-megawatt solar farm on a 57.84-acre tract just north of the St. Joseph Sportsman Club, north of Interstate 74.

The committee voted 4-2 to recommend authorizing the issuance of a special-use permit for that project.

However, the St. Joseph Village Board has expressed concerns over the proposed solar farm because of its proximity to the village.

In an objection dated Sept. 11, village officials, by a 6-0 vote, said they believe “locating said solar farm at the proposed location will adversely affect the village’s ability to grow to the north, where there is already significant development.”

St. Joseph Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges said the village trustees’ biggest objection was the waiver for developing within one-half mile of the village limit and that a waiver was requested to reduce the distance to within one-tenth of a mile of the village.

Fruhling-Voges said the village needed a precedent of objecting to the distance despite “this location being the least objectionable of the three proposed. The trustees felt they need to protect the one-half mile area for the future.”

“I don’t know if there is a better solar location in the entire state,” Borkowski said on Thursday night. “On this particular parcel there are two gigantic cellphone towers, there is a substation and there is a shooting range. There is very limited development possibilities on that particular parcel.”

St. Joseph Sportsman Club Vice President Dave Costley said the club would be more than happy to have the solar farm develop at the proposed location.

Both proposals advance to the full county board, which could make a final decision at its Oct. 18 meeting.

“We hope to bring five other solar farms before you by the end of the year,” Hall said.

tmitchel@news-gazette.com

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