Don and David Halverson stand near one of two wind turbines they allowed to be installed on their property in DeKalb County, March 4, 2010. They get paid about $9,000 annually for each wind turbine. (Alex Garcia/ Chicago Tribune)
By Julie Wernau | A Circuit Court judge cleared the way this week for a lawsuit filed by a group of DeKalb County residents who claim 126 wind turbines are there illegally and want them torn down.
The wind farm was the subject of a Tribune story this March that highlighted the health complaints of residents living near the structures. Residents who live nearthe turbines, which are about 400 feet high from blade to tip, have complained of sleep disturbances, illnesses and vertigo from strobe-like flashes produced by the whirling blades.
On Wednesday, Judge Michael Cowell of the 16th Judicial Circuit Court denied a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the wind farm’s developer, FPL Energy Illinois Wind LLC (a subsidiary of NextEra Energy), the DeKalb County Board and landowners who have agreed to lease land for turbines and transmission lines. In a 15-page opinion, the judge said the residents complaints’ had the legal standing necessary for the case to move forward.
Residents living near the turbines say the DeKalb County Board allowed a special zoning permit for the turbines, although it did not meet the board’s own definitions of a permitted use. They also say the board failed to issue a permit within the time period allowed under state statutes, and that they did not fully consider the impact the turbines would have on surrounding residents.
“Our complaint seeks to have the turbines removed,” said Richard Porter, attorney for the residents’ group. “If the zoning that was issued was void, they were put there improperly.”
The defendants in the case have 28 days to respond to the complaint. Porter said he plans to move forward with discovery motions and depositions of the DeKalb County Board members and FPL employees related to the case. A status conference has been scheduled for Aug.12.