More than 100 people, mostly from Seneca County, gathered Thursday night to hear from opponents of wind turbine projects in the area.
The Seneca Anti-Wind Union held the event in Bellevue to discuss the consequences of several pending wind turbine projects, including APEX Clean Energy’s Republic Wind project, which could bring 55-58 wind turbines, mostly in Seneca.
The proposed project in Seneca and Sandusky counties covers about 30,000 acres – roughly south of Green Springs, north of Republic and southwest of Bellevue. The proposed turbines are to generate about 200 megawatts of electricity and APEX officials claim the 30-year deal would bring about $29 million to landowners, $36 million to schools and $18 million to the counties and townships.
The Seneca Anti-Wind Union is headed by Chris Zeman, who lives near the proposed project. Zeman said the meeting was to educate and inform people.
Zeman asked for those in attendance who were against the wind project to raise their hands and all but a few did so.
Ron Kebley, of the anti-wind group, presented a Powerpoint discussing negative ramifications of the project.
He said design work for the Republic Wind Project should be finished this summer and construction is to begin in the second quarter of 2019.
Kebley said turbines could negatively impact the quality of life and property values of people who are not receiving money earmarked for landowner payments.
He said the turbines are to be about 591 feet tall, which he said is taller than the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
Kebley said the state’s setback laws should be more stringent. He said under the law, turbines must be 1,125 feet from property lines.
Kebley said he and others also oppose pending legislation that would reduce the setback from the closest structure to 1,125 feet. Jeremy Kitson, of Citizens for Clear Skies in Van Wert, said he never has heard of a zoning regulation that measures from a structure.
Kebley said this could lead to a situation where a property owner legally would not be allowed to expand or build a new structure because a neighbor installs a turbine.
“It limits the use of their own property,” he said.
Kitson also cited a study by Rutgers professor Terry Matilsky which states a 300-foot turbine could throw debris, such as ice which could build up on turbines, about 1,700 feet. If extrapolated, he claims Republic Wind turbines could throw debris about 3,350 feet.
Kebley said about 828 homes would be affected by the turbines.
He said the only way to stop the project is for residents to get involved and ask questions of their lawmakers. He encouraged attendees to write letters to government representatives and research the issue.
“Are some of the residents being sold out to increase county revenues?” he asked.
Kitson, who lives near a 152-turbine project in Van Wert, said landowners who are negatively affected by these projects have one choice.
“You have to fight back,” he said, adding it will be difficult because opponents of the project are fighting a powerful, wealthy lobby. “This fight can be won.”
Zeman said if the Republic project is completed, he believes several others will occur.
“Once the Republic project gets done, it will light a fuse,” he said. “There will be miles and miles of turbines.”
Kitson said he did not envy lawmakers because the issue was a lose-lose situation.
“They are probably losing sleep at night because they know they are holding some of the cards,” he said.
Seneca County Commissioner Mike Kerschner attended the event and heard the concerns of residents. Commissioners submitted a memorandum of support for the Republic Wind Project.
“It’s a difficult situation because you’re going to make somebody mad no matter what,” he said.
Kerschner said state legislation still is pending and the county has no say in the change to setbacks.
He said he was not a strong supporter on either side of the debate because his larger priority was doing what is best for all citizens.
He said one option the Seneca Anti-Wind Union is considering is placing a referendum on the ballot to allow voters to decide the fate of the project.
“The best solution for anything like this is to let the people speak and give them what they want,” Kerschner said. “There is a significant grassroots groundswell who have concerns and you’ve got to consider that.”
Kerschner said commissioners could change their stance on the project.
“It’s a dynamic process,” he said.
Kerschner said others have compared wind turbines to telephone poles and lines.
He said three or four generations ago, people were upset that the telephone poles would disrupt their views and hurt property values.
“It’s a similar thought process,” he said. “We all resist change. I don’t know if it’s a good comparison, but some have suggested it.”
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