Green Garden Township Residents Chase Center Road Solar Plan

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By Karen Haave

Surya Power company officials have pulled their application for a solar farm on Center Road in Green Garden Township.
Tej Patel, head of Surya Power, backed away from the controversial project after a raucous Planning and Zoning Board meeting with GGT residents on September 5.
GGT Trustee Ralph Dietz described the meeting as “hostile, with shouting” from the more than 60 residents who packed the town hall to protest construction of a solar farm at 24890 Center Road.
Dietz, who chairs the GGT Planning and Zoning Commission, said Patel and his partner were unprepared for the bellicose atmosphere during the meeting.
“Tej Patel and his partner were anticipating a professional meeting, but got something on the opposite end,” Dietz said.
“I guess that in the past, of their short project career, they’ve never experienced all-out hate of one of their projects. And the questions they fielded from the residents, they’ve never encountered previously. So, after talking to them after the meeting, when they informed me of their decision and their team meeting, I conveyed their sentiment to our township officials.”
Dietz said Patel and his team are in Las Vegas for a nationwide Solar Convention. When they return, he added, they will discuss among themselves the other pending project in Green Garden Township at Kuse, west of 104th Ave.
“From our township point of view, the Kuse Road project is more in line with our Comprehensive Plan, being that it’s nearer to LaGrange Road and has more farm field nearby, but it’s within a mile and a half of the Village of Frankfort (whose officials can legally object),” Dietz said. “So, it’s a toss up.”
Poor behavior
Dietz also said that, in retrospect, the residents’ behavior at the township planning and zoning meeting was “a thorn in our side.
“That saying ‘Should have, could have, would have,’ and looking back, maybe we’d change a few things.
“Tej and his partner said they do not want to return to a Green Garden meeting. We are quite upset with that statement, and made it known at our monthly meeting (on September 11) that (unprofessional and discourteous conduct) won’t be tolerated. We can’t let our emotions get the best of us and taint the process.
“Don Murday (GGT Supervisor) came out very strong about the residents controlling themselves and saying things that condone hatred and intimidation.
“I also suggested to Tej other meeting scenarios that might work in the future, but we have to work within the Open Meetings Act.”
The proposed Center Road project already had been denied by the Will County Planning and Zoning Commission, and got another thumbs-down at the township’s planning meeting September 5.
The final decision would have been with the Will County Board, but since the Special Use Permit application has been withdrawn, that’s a moot point.
GGT residents contend that a large-scale solar farm on the Center Road location is inappropriate, because it is bordered on three sides by homes and will cause a drop in property values there.
At the same time, they contend that the solar panels will contaminate prime farmland and lead to loss of farms, and that they have potential to create health issues.
Others note that the panels are not quiet, with significant noise generated by tracking motors, gears and battery storage systems.
And others fear the panels can be used for “malicious manipulation of the weather.”
Future solar plans
Although solar plants are not a favorite for GGT officials, Dietz said they are looking to work with Surya Power to possibly find more favorable locations for their solar plants.
“I asked the applicant to work with the Township Planning Commission in finding more suitable properties that meet our Comprehensive Plan, instead of plopping them down in residential and farming properties,” he said.
But denying the projects in the future may not be simple.
“It’s come to our attention that Will County’s hands are being tied related to wind and solar projects, compliments of Gov. Pritzker, who signed Public Act 102-1123. which cuts the power of counties to slow down, stop, or move solar projects away from open farm properties,” he noted.
“I’ve heard that the counties must file lawsuits against the state based on the constitutionality of this law.”
According to Michael Theodore, Will County Director of Communications, seven permits have been applied for in the county and so far, four have been built. Three have been approved in Peotone and Monee townships. Of those, one permit has been submitted.
The proposed projects are not from all the same company, and the solar farms have ranged from 30-60-plus acres. Theodore said that it is unknown how many more are in the planning stages.
However, he noted that even if the special use is approved, the applicants would also need a permit issued to be able to construct the site.
Forty special use permits have been approved in Will County for solar since 2018, but only seven permits have been applied for in that time.
The average lifespan of a solar farm and what happens when they no longer are functional reportedly depends on the technology and the company’s business plan.
The leases typically last from 20-40-plus years. In accordance with the executed Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture, at the conclusion of operation the solar facility would need to be deconstructed.”
Who benefits from the energy harvested — local residents or the solar company — depends on the solar company’s business plan.
Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

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