McHenry County Board votes to repeal solar farm restrictions amid lawsuit

Restrictions on time, among other things, repealed

The solar farm at Huntley High School on Friday, June 30, 2023. Multiple solar farms across McHenry County are being presented to the McHenry County Board creating concerns of watershed, farmland and pollinator issues.

The McHenry County Board has voted to repeal restrictions that it had placed on a dozen solar farms when they were approved in June and August.

The vote Tuesday came as the county is facing a lawsuit from a solar farm developer over the conditions.

“I cannot live with permanent zoning changes,” said board member Jim Kearns, R- Huntley. “That’s a problem for me.”

Kearns was the only board member who weighed in on the vote.

The board voted 11-6, with one abstention, to approve the repeal. Kearns and board members Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, Matt Kunkle, R-Algonquin, John Reinert, R-Crystal Lake, Mike Shorten, R-Crystal Lake, and Tracie Von Bergen, R-Hebron, voted against the repeal.

Board member Eric Hendricks, R-Lake in the Hills, abstained.

The board also voted to eliminate a 10-year time limit condition imposed on another solar farm approved in Crystal Lake.

“I just don’t agree with the amendments and, therefore, I just wanted to pull it off so I could vote no,” Kearns said.

He also was the only member to weigh in on that repeal.

The vote breakdown was similar to the first vote, except board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, abstained and board member Theresa Meshes, D-Fox River Grove, did not vote.

The state has limited the ability of counties to regulate solar farms. The set of conditions McHenry County had placed on the energy-producing operations was an attempt to retain some control over them amid opposition to solar farms from some nearby residents.

However, the lawsuit filed by IL Solar 9000 LLC asserts that the county’s restrictions are not allowable because they’re stricter than state law.