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Tazewell County solar farm projects given new life by county board

A rendering of what the Coyote Road Solar project would look like a year after installation. Trees would eventually conceal the project from view.
Stantec / RWE / Coyote Road Solar
A rendering of what the Coyote Road Solar project would look like a year after installation. Trees would eventually conceal the project from view.

Two solar farm projects in Tazewell County are back on line.

A month after voting down requests by Catmint Solar for a special use extension and Coyote Road Solar for a special use, the county board voted Wednesday to approve both requests after both were placed on the meeting agenda for reconsideration.

Each vote last month was 10-8 against the requests.

After nearly 90 minutes of public comment and a closed board session Wednesday, Catmint's request for a one-year extension passed 12-6, with board member Nick Graff voting "present," and Coyote Road's special use request passed 13-6.

During public comment, four of six speakers expressed opposition to the Catmint project. Eight of 11 speakers on the Coyote Road project supported the project.

Catmint Solar was originally granted a special use by the county board May 31, 2023 for a 5-mega-watt solar farm on 32 acres north of the Springfield Road and Eisele Road intersection in Groveland Township. The special use expired May 31, 2024.

Coyote Road Solar received a special use Wednesday for a 150 mega-watt solar farm on more than 1,300 acres of prime farm land in Malone and Delavan townships near Tazewell County's borders with Mason and Logan counties.

Each solar farm is in an Agriculture Preservation District. That's why a special use is needed.

Graff said he wanted to vote his conscious on both requests (he was in the majority last month), but he couldn't do so because of the possibility of lawsuits against the county by the solar companies.

"I want to apologize to everyone who thought these issues were resolved last month," he said. "I feel like I've been sitting on a razor trying to decide how to vote."

East Peoria Mayor John Kahl said during public comment that he opposes the Catmint project because it would shut out the city from its only remaining opportunity for population growth.

He also chastised Catmint representatives who spoke earlier during public comment for what he considered "disparaging remarks" about nearby residents who oppose Catmint's project.

In a Facebook post late Wednesday night, Kahl blasted the county board's decision on Catmint.

"I never thought I would see the day when the Tazewell County Board would turn its back on the second-largest municipality in the county by disregarding the municipality's right to protect its planning boundaries, simply due to the threat of being sued by an outside solar farm company looking to profit at the expense of the taxpayers," he wrote. "Disappointing to say the least and duly noted."

County board member Bill Atkins, who voted for the Catmint extension, said Catmint needed to be treated like every other entity that requested a special use or special use extension.

"We need to apply the laws we passed," he said.

Proponents of the Coyote Road project said during public comment that landowners who sold their land to Coyote Road for the solar farm have the right to sell their property, and the project would create jobs for local trade union members and millions of dollars of property tax revenue for the county over the minimum 40-year life of the solar farm.

Damaged Townline Road bridge over Prairie Creek could re-open as early as next week

In other actions Wednesday, the board approved:

  • An emergency declaration requested by the Tazewell County Highway Department to repair the Townline Road bridge over Prairie Creek between Miller and Levy roads that has been closed since a 50-ton truck hit the bridge June 13 and damaged a guard rail. The nearly 60-year-old bridge has been scheduled for replacement, with bidding for the project expected later this year. County Engineer Dan Parr said he hopes the bridge can re-open with one lane available as early as next week.
  • Awarding $550,310 in state grant money to 11 entities including Tazewell County departments, the village of Creve Coeur, the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, Tazewell County Resource Center, Heart of Illinois Port Authority and the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council. The grants are from a program created by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help areas impacted by the closure of a fossil fuel power plant. The NRG Energy Powerton station in Pekin is scheduled to close in 2028.
  • Blunier Builders' low bid of $209,600 to construct a prefabricated metal building at Tazewell County's Tremont campus. The Washington-based company's bid was under the $225,000 budgeted for the project.
  • Expanding the county's current service agreement with Heart Technologies of East Peoria into a full-time IT service contract, raising the monthly cost to Tazewell County from $28,065 to $45,565 per month for three years.
  • Paying i3 Broadband a monthly cost of $624 over three years to provide internet service for the new location of the Tazewell County Health Department on Broadway Road in Pekin.
  • Transferring $2,683 from budget reserves to cover the cost of printing done by Allegra while the county awaited the arrival of a replacement printer for the print shop.
  • Changing the Pekin Precinct 7 and Pekin Precinct 9 polling location from the Pekin Township Building to the Pekin Public Library for the Nov. 5 election. The township building partially collapsed in October and is still being repaired. The library was used as the polling location for those precincts in the March primary.
Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.