November 14, 2015

Winds in rural Greenwich are blowing toward Columbus … specifically the Ohio Supreme Court

By Aaron Krause | Norwalk Reflector | November 13, 2015 |

A rural Greenwich group’s fight to keep wind turbines out of their neighborhood is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

A state board on Thursday gave Windlab USA, a wind turbine developer, the go-ahead to construct 25 turbines in rural Greenwich, rejecting a request for a rehearing by a couple who lives by the future development.

The project will comprise 4,600 acres and up to 25 turbines, each 490.5 feet tall with rotor diameters of up to 383 feet.

Matthew Schilling, a spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board, said Omega Crop Co. LLC, owned by Greenwich area residents Gerald and Connie Oney, filed four months too late to be a party in the case. Being a party to the case basically means an individual or entity has the right to raise arguments and be heard in the case.

Even though the board said Omega filed too late to intervene in the case, board members decided to hear the Oneys arguments. They included the developer’s violation of minimum setback requirements.

A point of contention is whether Monica Jensen, Windlab USA’s vice president of development, has secured the necessary signatures from all adjacent property owners to bypass the minimum setback requirements.

Jensen on Thursday said she has “15 waivers” from residents whose property violates those setbacks.

But Sam Randazzo, an attorney for the Greenwich Neighbors United, a group opposed to the wind turbines, said of the 25 proposed turbines, 62 percent violate the minimum setback requirements. He added that amounts to “at least 100 property owners.”

“The only way the construction can proceed is if (Windlab) obtains waivers from all adjacent property owners,” Randazzo said.

The attorney said if you draw a circle based on a one-mile radius from the center of the proposed windfarm, there are more than 900 residences, in addition to “many active farms” as well as recreational and hunting businesses.

“That is why there has been such strong opposition,” he said.

“There’s no way that they have secured waivers from all of those property owners,” Randazzo said. He added that the ruling handed down by the siting board Thursday stipulates that Windlab must have those signatures before starting to construct a turbine.

“At the end of the day, they can’t construct anything unless they secure a waiver from the adjacent property owners,” he said. “That would be against the board’s order.”

Schilling confirmed the ruling requires the signatures.

The attorney was asked about the 15 waivers Jensen said she’s obtained.

“What she has are documents associated with leases that property owners have entered into in order to allow the erection of the turbines,” Randazzo said.

The lawyer also said according to Ohio law, before the Ohio Power Siting Board can issue a certificate for a windfarm, the board must be able to show the proposed windfarm will comply with various requirements related to flicker, sound and ice throw.

The board was supposed to have developed rules related to those requirements by 2008. The board “never issued those rules,” Randazzo said. He added, therefore, the board issued Windlab USA a certificate to construct before the developer can demonstrate they can satisfy those requirements.

Opponents have also raised concerns about noise, adverse health effects and impact to wildlife.

Jensen has said wind turbines are all over and people live by them without experiencing problems. She also said she saw a sign that 985 people were killed on Ohio’s roads this year…but people still drive.

Randazzo said he’s confident his clients will present a strong case before the state supreme court.

“We will not go there frivolously,” he said. “We believe we have a very strong case here.”

Randazzo said it could be “quite a while,” perhaps a year and a half.

Oney said Sen. Bill Seitz spoke on behalf of Greenwich Neighbors United regarding setback requirements.

“We still have a lot of hope,“ Oney said. He added that Windlab has not completed a road agreement with county officials. They can’t begin construction until that happens, Oney said.

But Jensen said that she’s working to get a road agreement in place to pave way for construction. She said she hopes the board’s ruling allows the project to move forward.

”We are happy the OSPB“ ruled the way it did, Jensen said.

”Omega is not a party to this proceeding,“ according to the ruling. ”In our first entry on rehearing, we expressly limited the scope of Omega’s first application for rehearing to the issue of the board’s denial of Omega’s late-filed motion to intervene. Nonwithstanding this determination, as is board practice, we reviewed the other arguments raised by Omega and found no merit; therefore, further review of those arguments is neither warranted nor appropriate. Accordingly, we find no merit to Omega’s second application for rehearing and it should be denied.“

Jensen said she feels it’s unfortunate that rural Greenwich is being ”held hostage“ by a group of people who have an ”agenda“ to simply stop the project.

The developer said in addition to wind energy, one of the benefits of the project will be ”well over“ $400,000 in extra tax revenue for South Central Local Schools.

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