The Union Township Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-1 to allow a variance for a wind measuring tower on 2049 Talbott Road during the meeting Tuesday night.
Board members Fred Myers, Jami Hackworth, Frank Vawter and Mike Schafer voted to permit the variance. Board member Charles Sanders voted against.
Reportedly, the test tower will be 196 feet tall, have no lights and be supported by guide wires. Council did amend the variance to include the tower must be taken down after five years, and Invenergy is responsible for dismantling the tower. The company must provide a $4,000 bond so, if it doesn’t take the tower down, the township won’t have to foot the bill.
The board allowed members of the public to speak for five minutes at a time in favor of or against the placement of the test tower, so long as the speakers were residents of Union Township.
Bob McConnell was one of the members in the audience who spoke out against the placement of the anemometer.
He first stated that an organization he is affiliated with, Union Neighbors United, “is a grassroots organization that does not receive funds from any out of state interests.”
As a member of the UNU, McConnell objected to the placement of another anemometer in the township as there are no setbacks, zoning or a land use plan in place for them in Union Township.
He also warned about trusting the companies behind the turbines and test towers that have been pushing for their placement.
“We have very little confidence in the turbine companies to be fair and forthcoming in the dealings with homeowners in Union Township,” he said. He cited the fact that companies have been “secretly signing leases” with private landowners for the past year and have not recorded any of it. He added that many of the leases include gag-orders, restricting the landowners from saying anything about the arrangements.
“These so-called energy companies are in it for the money, the primary source of which is not the providing of electrical power, but the tax incentives which we citizens ultimately pay for.”
Also on the topic of taxes, McConnell said that it is his understanding that wind turbines can have total exemption in Ohio from local property tax, sales tax, use tax and franchise tax.
“Our county treasurer and auditor were not aware of this until we brought it to their attention two weeks ago,” he said, adding that wind turbines also get a “significant” break on income tax from the federal government.
“As a result, these turbines are not going to generate the expected tax dollars for any of our local governments or our schools despite what some of you or other local officials have suggested or been led to believe,” he said.
Robin Berry rebutted McConnell, saying that the contracts are private because they aren’t anyone else’s business. She also said the tax credits are in place as incentive to bring the turbine companies to Ohio and the anemometers are needed to evaluate the wind potential in the area.
Lauren Ross, a Springfield attorney speaking on behalf of some Union Township residents, was denied the floor because she did not live in Union Township.
The board then allowed Eric Miller, a representative of the Chicago-based Invenergy, to speak for the allotted five minutes in favor of the test tower.
He spoke on his company’s track record of renewable energy projects around the nation.
Locally, he said it is important to understand, “this is an application for a wind measurement tower,” which is different than asking to put a wind turbine on the property.
By Shaun Dunlap
13 June 2007
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