Ogle County Regional Planning Commission denies rezoning recommendation

Constellation is seeking to have 658.8 acres around the Byron Generating Station zoned I-1 Industrial

Constellation Energy Generation, which owns the Byron Generating Station, is seeking to have 658.8 acres of land rezoned to I-1 Industrial. On June 27, 2024, Ogle County Regional Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend the Ogle County Board deny the request.

OREGON – A request by Constellation Energy Generation to rezone 658.8 acres of company-owned land around the Byron Generating Station has failed to earn a positive recommendation from the Ogle County Regional Planning Commission.

Constellation, which owns the nuclear station, is requesting that 17 land parcels in Rockvale and Marion townships be rezoned from AG-1 Agricultural to I-1 Industrial; half of one parcel is zoned R-2 Single-Family Residential. The company also is asking that data centers be added as a special use in I-1 Industrial districts.

“The zoning that’s already there is like patchwork,” said Benjamin Schuster, an attorney with Elrod Friedman LLP representing Constellation. “We’re trying to unify under the industrial district.”

The main reason Constellation is seeking the rezoning is to be able to better market the land – all of which currently is vacant – to potential developers, Schuster said. Any development would comply with Ogle County zoning regulations, he said.

On Thursday, June 27, the Ogle County Regional Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend that the Ogle County Board deny Constellation’s petition.

RPC members Jeffrey Franklin, Dale Flanagan and Dennis Probasco voted to deny the petition; Chairman Paul W. White and Vice Chairman Wayne Reising voted against denying it. Commission member Ryan Reeverts was absent.

The RPC is the first of three bodies before which the petition will go before the Ogle County Board makes a final decision. The other two bodies are the Ogle County Zoning Board of Appeals and the Supervisor of Assessments and Planning and Zoning Committee.

Flanagan asked what would protect the property from becoming host to “something we really don’t want it to be” if the zoning changes were approved.

“If we zone it that way, you could build really anything you want to,” Flanagan told the Constellation representatives. “I just feel like we give you an open-ended book as to what you can do with this property [if the zoning change is approved].”

Potential land uses for which Constellation is interested in finding developers are hydrogen manufacturing and processing, aviation fuel manufacturing, and data centers, Schuster said.

Constellation is not seeking zoning approval for any specific developments as part of the rezoning process, he said.

“We’d be coming back once we identify users to partner with you, review site plans for various parcels, have the full process with public hearings and so forth,” Schuster told RPC members. “We want to respect that process.”

The kinds of developments Constellation is proposing would be a benefit to the county long term, Reising said.

“I think it’s going to give the county more stability for what we have already because it’s going to be more beneficial to have a tenant or co-partnership in there,” he said. “We don’t want to see a time come when the [nuclear] plant isn’t competitive on the open market.”

Franklin said his concern was the amount of farmland that would be zoned industrial. There are fights over losing 5 acres of farmland, and this would be rezoning more than 600 acres of it, he said.

“I personally would like them to come and say, ‘We’d like to develop this piece, this piece and this piece,’ and go piecemeal,” Franklin said.

That might make it harder for Constellation to market the land, he said, but rezoning all 17 parcels at once is “too much of a broad stroke for me.”

The Ogle County ZBA meets at 6 p.m. July 9 in the third-floor County Board room of the Old Ogle County Courthouse, 105 S. Fifth St., Oregon.

Both the RPC and ZBA recommendations will be reviewed by the Supervisor of Assessments and Planning and Zoning Committee and then sent to the full Ogle County Board for a final decision.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.