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Ohio Supreme Court rules in favor of planned Huron County wind farm

A sharply-divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Thursday that a proposed wind farm in Greenwich in southern Huron County can go forward without applying stricter setback rules for the space between the wind turbines and property owners.

The ruling is a victory for 6011 Greenwich Windpark LLC, which has sought to build a wind farm with up to 25 wind turbines in Greenwich Township.

The Power Siting Board approved the application to build a wind farm in 2014.

In 2015, Greenwich Windpark applied to modify the application by substituting different models of wind turbines.

Greenwich Neighbors United, an organization of property owners opposing the project, appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing state law required that when a wind farm certification was amended, the Power Siting Board was required to apply the increased setback requirements. The group also argued that the state had to have a new hearing on the matter.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the Power Siting Board was correct when it ruled the changes were not an amendment that triggered the new setback rules. The application did not change the location of any turbines or create any new environmental impacts, O’Connor wrote.

Dissenting, Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote the majority “abdicates this court’s judicial duty and authority to ‘say what the law is’.”

“Contrary to the majority’s analysis, the General Assembly – the ultimate arbiter of public policy in this state – has unambiguously provided that any amendment to a wind farm’s certificate shall be subject to the new setback provisions enacted in those statutes,” Kennedy wrote.

Ohio Supreme Court justices Judith French, Patrick Fischer and Michael Donnelly joined O’Connor in siding with the wind park developer.

Kennedy’s dissent in favor of Greenwich Neighbors United was joined by justices R. Patrick DeWine and Melody Stewart.

While the ruling appeared to increase the chances the wind farm would be built after years of wrangling, officials didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Register asked for comments from a spokesman for the Ohio Power Siting Board, from Greenwich Windpark attorney Michael Settineri and from Greenwich Neighbors United leader Kevin Ledet but did not get a response by deadline.