The battle over wind energy is heating up again in western Ohio.
A decision by the Logan County Board of Elections on Friday cleared the way for a referendum on a township zoning amendment that sets guidelines for wind turbines.
Landowners say the regulations, approved in the fall by the Jefferson Township zoning board and township trustees, are too lenient. They gathered enough signatures to put the issue before voters on the March 4 ballot.
But late last month, attorneys representing the landowners who plan to erect the wind turbines – towering structures that harness the power of the wind to produce energy – filed a protest based on procedural errors with the petition.
After hearing testimony from both sides on Friday, the elections board allowed the referendum to proceed. Members of the Wind Truth Alliance, which circulated the petitions, declared victory.
“This is about what’s fair,” said Teri Eliot. She lives on picturesque country property along Bristol Ridge, near Zanesfield, which has become a prime target of energy companies.
“We’re not against wind energy. We are against improper, unsafe placement of these turbines,” Eliot said. “The voters have a right to say where they should go.”
The lawyers who filed the protest said they might take the case to court.
Western Ohio – Champaign and Logan counties in particular – has long been embroiled in a wind-energy debate. Those who want the turbines, and who hope to be paid by the energy companies for use of their land, say it’s a property-rights issue. Others say the towers don’t help reduce reliance on other energy sources and are unsightly, noisy and dangerous.
In the fall, the Jefferson Township zoning board unanimously approved a resolution regulating the turbines. The rules say that turbines must be set back at least 1.1 times the height of the tower from any primary structure and any adjoining property line, and at least the height of the tower from any public road.
The towers can be up to 400 feet tall.
The group opposing the turbines had argued for much more restrictive regulations, with setbacks of at least 950 feet from adjoining property lines and 1,450 feet from any inhabitable buildings.
Eliot said the hope now is for voters to squelch the regulations enacted last year and persuade elected officials to look at the issue again.
By Holly Zachariah
10 January 2008
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