DANVILLE – In another unusual Danville City Council meeting Tuesday night, Aqua Illinois’ proposed solar project at its water treatment plant off West Fairchild Street failed to be reconsidered by aldermen.
This time around, the council voted 7-5 again, which was a failing vote, to temporarily suspend city council rules enacted in 1993 to reconsider the special-use permit for the solar array. The council voted 5-7 against the permit last month. This followed a 4-1 vote recommending approval of the permit from the Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission.
After the third time several Logan Avenue and Westwood Place residents spoke before the zoning commission and aldermen against the permit due to concerns about noise and seeing the solar panels, lower property values and other issues, Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. read aldermen rules of procedure for the city council in voting.
He said a vote to reconsider the special-use permit could come up at the following city council meeting after the failed vote if an alderman voting against it made a motion as such. That meeting would have been June 4.
Therefore 10 aldermen votes were needed to approve temporarily suspending the rules to allow a vote to reconsider the matter at Tuesday night’s meeting.
With Ward 1 Alderwoman Brenda Brown, Ward 3 Alderman R.J. Davis, Ward 5 Aldermen Mike Puhr and Tom Stone and Ward 7 Alderman Bob Iverson voting not to suspend the rules for reconsideration of the permit, the council didn’t vote on the motion to reconsider or on the permit again.
Ward 6 Alderman Steve Nichols was absent and there remains a vacancy in Ward 1 due to Williams becoming mayor.
Ward 4 Alderman Mike O’Kane at the end of the meeting said they are not a zoning board and he asked if they overturn items, why does the zoning commission exist?
The council again heard from seven residents opposed to the permit. Some said it was improper for the council to reconsider the vote, and they asked if the council was going to take the side of residents or a big corporation.
Residents, including Bill Garrison, also said aldermen are seeing a “vastly different view” now than what they will see in the winter time with the trees and the solar array.
Those who spoke in favor of the permit were former alderman Lloyd Randle and Aqua and Sol System representatives.
Rich Baltimore with Sol Systems said they’ve spent $120,000, which is nonrefundable, already on the project.
“This has certainly been a learning experience...,” Williams said about the voting process.
Iverson said they’re not saying solar energy projects are bad. It’s a matter of where the array is being placed, he said.
“We’re not saying solar energy should be banned in the City of Danville,” he said, adding that there are other locations where the arrays can be placed without disrupting neighborhoods.
In other business the council voted 11-1 to allow city employees to live within 5 miles of the city, with the employees paying $300 for the city portion of property taxes and also the public safety pension fee.
Williams also had to provide the eighth vote to approve vacating an east-west alleyway near 918 N. Walnut St. for Troy and Linda Shults. Aldermen voted 7-5 in favor of it.