Long Grove board approves District 96 solar panel project
Buffalo Grove-based Kildeer Countryside Elementary District 96 has gained approval for a roughly $3 million solar project that drew opposition from Long Grove residents living near two schools where the panels will be installed to power the buildings.
Long Grove village board trustees Tuesday night voted 6-0 in favor of a special-use permit allowing the ground-mounted solar array on three acres of a 69-acre campus near Gilmer and Diamond Lake roads. The vote ended a lengthy process that included an initial village board rejection last June and several plan revisions.
"I think we've got a plan now that, after this process, merits your approval," District 96 attorney Howard Metz told the village board.
Trustee Chuck Nora was among the elected officials who expressed satisfaction with how the solar plan evolved. Village board members in January brought together the opponents and supporters for an informal workshop with the hope of reaching a compromise.
"I think the school district has bent over backward to comply with all our requests," Nora said. "I'm very happy about that."
District 96 officials say they expect the solar field to provide about 99 percent of the electricity used at Woodlawn Middle School and the adjacent Country Meadows Elementary School. The panels, projected to cost about $3 million, also will provide educational opportunities for students.
Metz said District 96 altered the solar project at least four times in an effort to shield the view of nearby residents. The latest tweaks made this month included longer berms and planting several evergreens.
Opponents included Cobblestone subdivision residents and the prominent James McHugh Construction Co. family. Patricia McHugh questioned the solar panels' proximity to the family's 200-plus-acre Windward Farm and whether they'd fit Long Grove's rural character.
Retired Illinois Appellate Court justice Dom Rizzi, a Cobblestone resident, still had concerns about unsightly views for the subdivision residents when he spoke at Tuesday's village board meeting. He contended District 96 should not receive a special-use permit for the solar project unless the berms were at least 10 feet high, not six feet.
"Who has to be satisfied here on what the board does?" Rizzi said. "The (school district) engineers or the homeowners themselves? It's not the engineers who are living in the house where they look out and the views are not screened. It's the homeowners."
District 96 previously altered its plan to reduce the area for the ground-mounted panels from four acres to three acres. It also agreed to use a higher-quality 8-foot privacy fence and additional landscaping, part of an effort to hide the project from the McHugh family's horse farm and Cobblestone.
Construction of the solar panels cannot begin immediately. Village Engineer Geoff Perry said the project must go through a permitting process.