Knox County Zoning Board of Appeals backs solar farm project despite public backlash

KNOX COUNTY, Illinois---The Knox County Zoning Board of Appeals backed a project to bring solar energy to the county Wednesday, April 4.

Dozens of homeowners and farmers opposed the decision for fear the project would decrease their property values.

“This room is full of people worried about the value of their houses,” says Ken Weaver.

The plan is to build two solar panel farms over 40 acres of land off County Highway 7 and 9 near east Galesburg.

Geronimo Energy, the Minnesota based company behind the development, estimates the $6 million project will generate enough energy to power about 860 homes for a year.

The company applied for a conditional use permit through Knox County almost two months ago which the Zoning Board of Appeals recommended the county move forward with during Wednesday’s meeting.

President of the Knox County Economic Development says the project could also generate up to $56,000 in tax revenue for the county.

“The big reason that economic development supports this project is because Knox county desperately needs tax revenue. Over the last few decades, our property taxes in this county has risen steadily as our population has declined and we have lost industry,” says Springer.

People who live in the area close to the potential development site says the project would be an eye sore, and they would rather see the land used for more traditional farming.

“People move to the country to get away from things like this. They want to see corn fields, cows and nature not solar powers surrounded by 8-foot fencing and bobbed wire,” says farmer Dan Tally.

The solar farm project still has a long way to go before crews can start construction. The permits still need the approval of the Assessor and Zoning Committee and then the full Knox County Board.

The plan will go before the Assessor and Zoning Committee on April 17, if approved the county board will review the matter on April 24.