Linn County supervisors cancel solar meeting on legal publication oversight
Dozens of residents, expecting an hour-long meeting, were sent home 10 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start.
Linn County Supervisor Louie Zumbach, left, speaks with Center Point’s Greg Butterfield after the county canceled its scheduled solar meeting 10 minutes after its scheduled start at the Palo Community Center on Monday. Butterfield, a farmer, says he has already lost 200 acres to solar power plants and is strongly opposed to adding a new one. He said he was frustrated with the county and its last-minute cancellation of the meeting. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)
Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers apologizes to a meeting attendee after a solar meeting was canceled 10 minutes after its scheduled start at the Palo Community Center on Monday. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)
PALO — The first of three meetings of the Linn County Board of Supervisors that was supposed to provide a public forum on a proposed solar project was canceled before it could start on Monday. County officials said an oversight in posting the legal notice about the meeting necessitated the cancellation. No new meeting date has been announced.
The dozens of locals and developer NextEra representatives who showed up for the meeting weren’t notified of the cancellation until around 6:10 p.m. The meeting was to start at 6 p.m.
While many expected to attend an hour-long meeting, supervisor Ben Rogers started the meeting by stating that there would be no meeting.
“We just got word of it,” Rogers said. “This is an embarrassing oversight. We know this is an issue that the community has been discussing and seeking guidance on next steps. I am incredibly sorry that we cannot hold a meeting tonight. We We will ensure that every effort is made to communicate the date of future meetings.”
The mistake? Not having the correct language in the official county newspaper, which is The Gazette.
“Obviously a notice was posted and that would be considered constructive notice, but by law we have to post specific language in The Gazette, including the day, and we didn’t receive that notice in the newspaper,” Linn County Planning Director Charlie Nichols said. The Gazette. “I don’t know why he slipped through the cracks and I’ll look into him. To be on the safe side, we thought we’d have to go through the process again and be correct.
Rogers told The Gazette that supervisors discovered the posting error about 10 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start.
“There were questions about the staff posting proof,” Rogers said. “And we hadn’t published it. We also don’t know if we’ll be able to come back and do that next Monday. It will depend on when we can get that in the log.
Supervisors were to vote on developer NextEra’s Duane Arnold Solar projects near Palo. The official vote would have been the first of three votes needed to rezone the area from agricultural to agricultural with a solar overlay, allowing the project to be built. The next two meetings were scheduled for August 24 and 29.
“We will continue to work with the project and we will follow this process,” said NextEra representative Megan Murphy Salyer. “It’s an important process to follow. We are patient and we are working on it. »
Last month, the Linn County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend approval for the rezoning, which would allow the project to be built.
The Duane Arnold Solar I project proposes to use 316 acres of an area of 857 acres to place photovoltaic solar panels capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of energy.
The Duane Arnold Solar II project would use 815 acres of an area of 1,780 acres to place solar panels capable of generating up to 150 MW. It would also include a 75 MW, four-hour battery energy storage facility. The battery energy storage system will consist of approximately 96 20 x 8 foot containers that will house 7,040 lithium-ion battery modules.
While NextEra will develop the project, Alliant Energy has filed a proposal with the Iowa Utilities Board to purchase NextEra’s utility-scale solar project and further develop it into the state’s largest solar storage and battery facility, if this plan is approved.
NextEra representatives said they expect to have the Palo projects operational by December 2024. The estimated start of construction is the first quarter of 2023, if the projects are approved.
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