Morrow County moved forward on one environmental issue today while leaving another for another day.
County commissioners voted unanimously to approve zoning-code changes to regulate where wind turbines, a source of renewable energy, can be built.
The county Board of Health met this evening to hear from backers of a construction-debris landfill project but made no decisions.
The zoning changes were prompted by interest from outside developers who want to build turbines in Congress and North Bloomfield townships, where zoning is controlled by the county.
“Offshore wind on Lake Erie is the best (source) in Ohio, but Morrow is up there,” said Amy Gomberg, a spokeswoman for Environment Ohio, an advocacy organization.
“These regulations will allow for utility-scale wind farms,” she said.
The regulations limit turbine height to 400 feet and provide for setbacks from structures, roads and property lines. If two adjoining property owners agree, the requirement dealing with distance from property lines can be waived.
Dennis Leader, one of a group of Morrow County property owners who together control about 7,000 acres, said the group has been approached by three wind-energy developers.
“We’ve been looking at the economic benefits to ourselves and the overall benefits and impacts to the community,” Leader said.
“I think most of us have been neutral (about building turbines), but I think the regulations are good and the waiver is a good compromise.”
Gomberg said the state currently has only four utility-class turbines. All four are in Bowling Green, where they generate enough electricity to power 2,000 homes per year.
Legislation currently pending in the Ohio House would stimulate wind-energy development by requiring state electric utilities to obtain at least 0.25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the end of 2009 and 12.5 percent by 2025, she added.
Commissioner Olen Jackson said he and his fellow commissioners support renewable-energy development but wanted to make sure they got the zoning issues sorted out properly because of their experience with the proposed construction- and demolition-debris landfill.
Since 2003, a Columbus-based developer has tried to obtain the necessary permits to build such a landfill in the northern part of the county, about 35 miles north of Columbus.
At a hearing tonight, the county’s Board of Health heard arguments from representatives for Washington Environmental Services Ltd., which seeks to transfer the operating license for the proposed landfill to an East Coast-based partnership known as Washington Environmental Services LLC.
In December, the board issued a notice of intent to deny the permit-transfer application, largely because of a larceny conviction and other criminal investigations into the East Coast partners.
Attorney April Bott, representing the company that wants the license, argued the conviction had nothing to do with landfills.
Michael Cyphert, an attorney for the current license holder, said public comments about the transfer were like “the rumor and innuendo scene with the Salem witch trials.”
By Jane Hawes
25 February 2008
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