An Iowa judge has ruled that zoning adjustments favoring solar power align with the town’s stated objectives, specifically the “protection and enhancement of the health and safety of all Linn County residents through the use of renewable energy.” The case revolved around objections to the 1,934-acre Duane Arnold Solar Project, under development by NextEra Energy.
The plaintiffs appeared to use a “scattergun” approach in their legal challenge. Among the litany of complaints were zoning ordinance violations, illegal “spot zoning”, and allegations that the project contravened both Linn County’s comprehensive plan and state law by allowing the conversion of prime farmland. One particularly incoherent complaint sought a hazard assessment for the solar farm due to its proximity to a nuclear material storage facility.
The judge dismissed all eight of their complaints.
Source: Linn County
The Gazette’s Erin Jordan reported on the local resistance to the project. The case, Joseph Kerner et al. vs. Linn County, Iowa Board of Supervisors, was filed on October 21, 2022, and reached its conclusion on July 20, 2023. Project documents are available on the Town of Linn’s official website.
The variety and nature of the plaintiff’s grievances have raised questions about the sincerity of their legal stance, especially since their strategy echoes the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” technique employed by Citizens for Responsible Solar in opposing other solar initiatives nationwide.
The judge ordered the seven plaintiffs to cover court costs.
Currently, the town has halted all new solar projects through a moratorium in effect until the end of 2023. Local authorities are in the process of refining solar zoning regulations and creating a Utility-Scale Solar ‘Scorecard’. The draft scorecard takes into account factors like native species, blooming seasons, agrivoltaic practices, and site grading among other considerations.
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