As our news editor, Tony Scott, reported in last week’s Record, city of Yorkville and Kendall County officials now are at odds over the proposed installation of a solar field on a vacant 7.4-acre parcel of land immediately west of the county jail in the city. The County Board voted in favor of the project in March, but the developer also needs the city to approve a special-use permit before the panels can be installed.
The County Board approved the project in an effort to reduce its energy costs for the county jail and adjoining courthouse and public health department buildings. Project developers have estimated that the solar panels will capture enough energy to allow the county to save an estimated $162,000 annually on its electric bills and just more than $4 million over a 25-year period.
But the city has yet to act on the special-use permit, and this past week Robert “HD” Davidson, a County Board member and former Yorkville mayor, charged that current Yorkville Mayor Gary Golinski now is intentionally delaying action on the special-use permit because the County Board failed to support the re-drawing of a tax increment financing district for the city’s downtown earlier this year. Golinski, however, denied Davidson’s allegation of politics in the delay over the special-use permit. He noted the city currently is reviewing another solar panel project proposed just east of the Route 71 and Route 126 intersection and wants to see if it will meet the council’s approval before moving the county’s permit request forward.
“I’m actually doing them a favor,” Golinski said of county officials. “The way I was polling the council, it would’ve gotten shot down. I was doing them a favor by waiting and seeing how this other one [at Route 71 and Route 126] does.”
We like the idea of the county allowing a private firm to develop a solar field that would provide power for the county’s adjoining buildings. Solar fields are environmentally friendly and would generate some cost savings for the county and, by extension, county taxpayers. However, we’re concerned the interests of county taxpayers and city residents will get lost in this developing political sideshow between the county and the city.
First and foremost, in evaluating the county’s special-use permit request, the Yorkville City Council must make certain that the proposed solar field can be adequately screened from the existing single-family homes nearby and the platted but still vacant home lots that back up to the project site. If they believe the solar fields cannot be effectively screened from the neighboring residential area and would negatively impact the value of those residential properties, the City Council should, without hesitation, reject the permit for the project.
But if council members determine landscaping and or other measures can be installed on the perimeter of the project site that will effectively screen it from the adjoining residential area, city officials should approve the permit and thereby help the county save some money for all county taxpayers – including those that live in the city.
We don’t fault Golinski or other city officials if they harbor some ill feelings toward their county counterparts for their lack of support over the city’s effort to re-draw its TIF district. All other local taxing districts – including the Yorkville School District – backed the city’s effort to update the TIF district. Still, city officials must place the interests of county taxpayers above political paybacks in considering the county’s special-use permit request.