116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — People who live near the site of two industrial-scale solar projects near Palo are suing the Linn County supervisors, challenging the supervisors’ zoning decision that will allow construction of the facilities.
The petition filed in Linn County District Court asks for judicial review — a certiorari proceeding — of the decision. Such reviews “may be a proper remedy for reviewing the legality of decisions made by city councils and county board of supervisors in zoning matters,” according to the Supreme Court.
The residents accuse the supervisors of not following Linn County land-use regulations and Iowa Code, arguing the ordinance constitutes “spot zoning.”
Residents filing the lawsuit are Joseph Kerner, Theodore Hoffman, Julie Hoffman, Randy Lane, Brenda Lane, Jessie Newman, Melissa Newman, David Rutledge, Donald Nelson, Traci Nelson and Randy Banes.
The filing comes after the supervisors approved the zoning changes needed to allow NextEra’s Duane Arnold Solar projects to move forward.
This is the second case brought against the supervisors. Earlier this year, a family living near the Coggon Solar project also sued, seeking the same judicial review. The project is on hold until a court hearing, which has yet to be set. No hearing date has been set for the Palo lawsuit either.
Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers said after the Coggon lawsuit was filed, he expected another legal challenge of the Palo projects.
“We knew this was going to happen. … Hopefully, the courts will side with us,” Rogers said. “We followed everything appropriately and did everything we needed to and, hopefully, the claims will be dismissed.”
The supervisors voted earlier this week to place a moratorium on future utility-scale solar projects in the county until at least Dec. 31, with the ability to extend the moratorium for up to a year until a review of the county’s solar ordinance is completed.
The Duane Arnold Solar I project near Palo plans to use 316 acres of an 857-acre plot to place photovoltaic solar arrays capable of generating up to 50 megawatts of energy.
The Duane Arnold Solar II project would use 815 acres of a 1,780-acre plot to place solar arrays capable of generating up to 150 MW. It also would include a 75-MW, four-hour battery energy storage facility with around 96 20-by-8-foot containers that will house 7,040 lithium-ion battery modules.
NextEra, which has operated in Iowa since 1999, said in June it plans to invest $800 million in the projects, including $50 million paid to landowners over the project's 30-year life span.
The company already has 11 wind projects in the state. The Palo site — near the decommissioned Duane Arnold nuclear plant — will be its first solar project in Iowa. It already has solar projects in 27 other states.
Last year, Alliant Energy filed a proposal with the Iowa Utilities Board to buy the NextEra project and further develop it into the state’s largest solar and battery-storage facility. The plan is for NextEra to develop and build the project and for Alliant to own and operate it by the end of 2024.
NextEra declined to comment for this story.,
Iowa Utilities Board
The Iowa Utilities Board declined to comment on the current litigation but earlier declined to give the Coggon project an electric-generating certificate until the court case is settled.
The utilities board in July granted electric-generating certificates to the Duane Arnold projects, pending a final, unappealable decision from the Linn County supervisors. It is unclear how the lawsuit filed this week will affect development of NextEra’s Palo project.
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