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Jefferson Twp. officials to consider moratorium on wind turbines

A proposed moratorium that would stop construction of wind turbines under Jefferson Township’s zoning ordinance likely will be going before the township’s zoning commission in the near future.

Logan County Prosecutor Gerald Heaton met with the trustees at their Tuesday meeting and advised them that moratorium issues should be treated the same as any other zoning commission issue. That means it would go to the zoning commission which would recommend to the trustees whether to act on it or turn it down.

It would then require a unanimous vote of the trustees to overturn the zoning commission’s decision, Mr. Heaton said, while a 2-1 vote would uphold the commission’s recommendation.

The moratorium was proposed a month ago by Linda and Tom Mazurek who represent a group of Logan County property owners who want more strict zoning regulations.

Mr. Mazurek, who said he was pleased the township is seriously discussing the moratorium issue, said one of the prime goals is to get the township to reconsider the current amendment that allows wind turbines in the township.

The wind turbine amendment, which was drafted by leaseholder Roger Brown, was recommended for approval by the zoning commission last fall and failed to get the required three votes the township trustees needed to override that recommendation during a September meeting.

Trustee Paul Blair cast the lone vote to support the commission’s recommendation.

Mr. Mazurek said the current amendment lacks specificity and does not adequately protect neighboring property owners.

“The ultimate goal is to have officials determine that this amendment needs to be reworked to be more specific,” he said, pointing out that the current amendment allows turbines to be within 1.1 times the height of the tower, but not the rotors, which could potentially hit a neighboring property if the tower collapsed at or near the base.

He also pointed out the fact that the amendment does not specifically address meteorological towers used to gather data before turbines can be constructed and that there is no maximum structure height included.

“We don’t need to be going back to the zoning appeals board every time an issue arises,” Mr. Mazurek said.

Mr. Heaton told trustees two key points in making sure a moratorium stands up to the scrutiny of the courts is to make findings that the township has no other recourse and that the issue will expire after certain conditions are met. He then told residents who support the moratorium they would be wise to suggest language and conditions the public officials could use to support such findings.

Leaseholder Bob Stoll said he would wait until he saw more detailed information on the proposed moratorium before commenting. But he did say he did not believe a moratorium would bode well in the courts.

“I can’t see a moratorium being used for wind turbines,” he said.

Mr. Heaton said case law is scarce on moratoriums because they are used rarely by political bodies and usually to check development because sewer and water systems or other infrastructure cannot support growth. Those moratoriums, he said, are lifted when the sewer or water plants are increased in capacity.

By Reuben Mees
Examiner Staff Writer

The Bellefontaine Examiner

28 May 2008