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Henry County conflict settled in realtor Zillow's favor

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CAMBRIDGE — Henry County lost its argument with online real estate giant Zillow, the county board members learned at Thursday night’s meeting.

The county had sought to have Zillow pay for the county’s assessment information, which the real estate company was obtaining through requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act. The settlement agreement allows the firm to continue to get the information for free with a FOIA request.

“We sent them a bill, and they refused to pay,” said county administrator Colleen Gillaspie. “We don’t think it’s right because they’re making money on it. They’re selling it, to a degree.”

She said assessments originate with taxpayer funds. “All that work costs the taxpayers money, and it doesn’t seem like it should be on the backs of taxpayers,” she added.

In other business, as plan/development chairman Lynn Sutton was giving the board the status of work on a utility scale solar ordinance, board member Bill Preston asked about ensuring that projects don’t affect prime farmland.

Jerry Thompson said it would be up to the people who own the farmland.

“They would not worry about putting the crop in and having a storm take it out,” he said.

Board chairman Roger Gradert said solar farms would have to meet criteria of the productivity of the farmland.

Preston asked board members to put local government consolidation on next month’s meeting agenda. He noted Illinois has more units of government than any other state and said the topic could be brought back off the table to discuss further.

“I firmly believe this issue does require your attention,” he said.

Board member Kathy Nelson said the board should help constituents understand the issue. She agreed it should be given another hearing, noting only 20 people attended each of two county meetings out of the total county population of 50,000.

“We all have a stake in this,” she said. “People pay a tax every day, and don’t have to be an elected official to have a responsibility to correct where we’re at.”

“It behooves all of us not to sit on our haunches and do nothing,” she added.

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