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Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments over wind farm

SANDUSKY – The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a legal battle that will help decide the fate of a proposed wind farm in southern Huron County.

The judges are expected to announce a decision within a few months in the case, which pits the 6011 Greenwich Windpark, that seeks to construct up to 25 wind turbines, against Greenwich Neighbors United, a group of property owners that have fought the proposal for several years.

Greenwich Neighbors United contends the Ohio Power Siting Board erred in failing to hold a public hearing over changes in the wind farm.

The group also contends the changes mean that a state law providing for stricter setback requirements should be applied to the project.

Matthew Pritchard, the attorney representing Greenwich Neighbors United, said the old law requires a setback of 548 feet from the wind turbine to a nearby property. Applying the stricter new law his group favors would require a setback of about 1,300 feet.

Greenwich Windpark said they have followed all of the rules in obtaining state permission for its green energy project and argues that putting further obstacles in its path is unfair and contrary to law.

In its brief, the business argued the case is “an improper, backdoor attempt by wind power opponents … to kill an approved and properly certificated wind-powered electric generating facility.”

There’s no way to know when the Ohio Supreme Court will rule, Pritchard said.

Other cases suggest an opinion could come as quickly as one month from now or as long as a year later, although the most likely outcome is a ruling in several months, Pritchard said.

Pritchard said that while the court ruling will be important, it’s not the only thing that will settle whether the wind farm is built.

Even if the wind farm wins, the business will have to obtain setback waivers from many property owners under the old rules to get the project moving forward, he said.

And if Greenwich Neighbors United wins, the wind farm could still try to obtain setback waivers under the tougher rules, he said.

An Ohio Supreme Court ruling won’t necessarily end the legal battle, either, Pritchard said. If the ruling sends the case back to the Ohio Power Siting Board, any action by the board might result in another appeal, he said.

Attorney Michael Settineri, who argued the case for Greenwich Windpark, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.