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Land Advisory Council Minutes June 4, 2018

Forest Preserves of Winnebago County

 

Land Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

June 4, 2018

 

Members Present:  Pam Cunningham, Bill Hoff, Lee Johnson, Randy Vogel, Steve Clark, Dan Williams, Ann Marie Cain, and Jerry Paulson.  FPWC Commissioners Present: Audrey Johnson and Judy Barnard.  FPWC Staff Present: Tom Hartley and Mike Holan. Guest: Ray Ferguson

 

Call to order:  Chairman Jerry Paulson called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. at the FPWC offices, 5500 Northrock Drive, Rockford, Illinois.

 

Adoption of agenda:  The agenda was approved as presented.

 

Approval of minutes from September 11, 2017 meeting: The minutes of the September meeting were approved as distributed.

 

Committee matters:

  • It was determined that LAC members do not have to file a Statement of Economic Interest with the County Clerk and do not need to renew training in the Open Meetings Act.
  • Chairman Paulson confirmed that all those LAC members present agree to continue on the Council and asked staff to ask those LAC members not present to see if they wish to continue. The length of term for a LAC member is in need of clarification.
  • Chairman Paulson restated conflict of interest policy. Any member with an interest in land being discussed should declare a conflict of interest before the agenda is approved and leave the room prior to discussion of the property.

 

Next steps for strategic plan:

  • Convene a meeting with interested open space partners to follow up on an earlier meeting. This has not been done but it was explained that there have been other meetings:
    1. Regional Land & Water Strategic Plan for Northwestern Illinois
    2. RMAP Environmental Meetings
  • Hartley has contacted almost all Priority 2 property owners and many Priority 4 & 5 owners. He will provide status report in closed session.

 

Presentation on solar farms as potential income source:

  • The committee discussed solar farms as they relate to the mission and purpose of the Forest Preserve. Staff asked for input and questions from the LAC as they discuss solar farm leases as a potential income source for the District. Ray Ferguson has had dealing with several companies and was invited to speak to his experience.
    • Solar farms and solar gardens must be located within ¼ mile of a main transmission line.
    • Larger solar farms are difficult to get state approval.
    • Land restoration after removal of panels is an item to carefully explore.
    • An agreement should have a bond as part of the contract to protect the land owner for things such as site cleanup or business closure.
    • Solar farms require a zoning change from Ag to Ag 2.
    • Solar Farms are taxed at a higher rate than farm ground so need to have solar operator pay the property taxes.
    • Negotiate terms of removal; life span of solar panels is 10-15 years.
  • Other discussion included:
    • In addition to panels, additional equipment has to be placed on site. For example, the panels produce DC current which has to be converted to AC to transmit in existing lines.
    • The ideal size seems to be to produce 2 megawatt. This translates into about 20 acres of land.
    • Toxic chemical leakage from panel glass breakage was brought up as a concern. It was stated that the panels are supposed to be self-contained.
    • Glare was brought up as a concern. Tom H. said that there are solar fields at airports. This suggests glare is not an issue.
    • Lee Johnson stated he did not think solar farms are a problem for migrating birds.
    • The Farm Bureau has established policies on leasing land for solar farms and gardens that address damage to drain tiles, soil compaction and restoration of the land.
    • A native species pollinator seed mix has been developed for planting under the solar panels.
    • There is a concern that leasing forest preserve lands for generation of electricity is not compatible with the mission of the District.
    • The risks of negotiating an acceptable lease agreement is too high for the amount of income that can be generated.

 

Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve Progress

The house and buildings were removed in December. Prairie planting for ½ of the cropland was completed at the end of May. A rough gravel parking area is completed and a trail established. The property has been included in two grants to improve habitat for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.

 

Closed Session to Consider Land Acquisition Projects & Review Status:  The Committee went into closed session at 5:10pm.

 

Return to Open Session: The meeting was opened at 5:30 p.m., Paulson noted that no action was taken in closed session.

 

Recommendation on Lease of Forest Preserve Land for Solar Installments: Dan Williams made a motion for recommendation to the board, second to the motion by Lee Johnson. The vote was unanimous in favor of the motion:

 

The FPWC should not lease District property for the purpose of constructing and maintaining solar installations.

 

Next Meeting Date: The next meeting date will be announced by Chairman Paulson.

 

Adjourn:  Chairman Paulson adjourned the meeting at 5:45pm.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Hartley,

Director of Land and Development