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Homeowners fighting to preserve solar farm setback regulations

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SALINE COUNTY. IL (WSIL) -- A solar project proposed for Saline County, which News 3 reported on Thursday night, is receiving some pushback from its future neighbors.

They are fighting to preserve setbacks already established in local ordinances passed just last year.

Officials with the solar project say it's a "win win" for both the community and the developers, but some property owners disagree. A group of around 20 are taking their concerns to the next County Board meeting.

Cathy Parks has lived in her Saline County farm house for the past 41 years, she says she is not looking forward to a solar farm replacing the fields of corn she currently looks out on.

"I have my daughter as my neighbor across from my pasture," says Parks, adding other neighbors may be a quarter of a mile apart, but in the country everyone knows everyone, "or someone who does."

"I won't be seeing nature," explains Parks on what is proposed to replace the agricultural landscape. "I'll be seeing solar industry, it's not farming, it's an industry."

Parks and her neighbors have more than a handful of reservations about the proposed solar farm, but their primary concern is preserving setbacks established last year.

Home owner Brenda Cook says developers now want the county board to provide a variance of just 200 feet.

"So the ordinance that was given to us is being contested by the solar company, Tenaska," says Cook. "They are wanting, and then some of the farmers too, are asking that that 600 feet be cut all the way back to 200, and that's not what we were given in the ordinance."

Ordinance Number 2019-8 lays out nine pages of regulations for commercial solar farms, Cook says it passed unanimously last year.

"We are not opposed to solar farming per se," explains Cook. "But we do feel that we have the right to the 600 feet to maintain our way of life and to also, possibly save some of the value of our homes so that others might too, want to live in the country."

Cook says that all parties were in agreement to the setbacks in May of 2020; however, she says developers now say that without the variance, the solar farm footprint is not large enough.

"And we're saying, the 600 feet was all agreed upon," says Cook. "So that's why it's a real struggle right now."

The next Saline County board meeting is Thursday, July 22nd at 6:30 pm. It is to take place in the Saline County courthouse.

Joe Rehana

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