BUCYRUS – Potential wind and solar farms are not wanted in Crawford County was the message a dozen residents had Thursday for commissioners Doug Weisenauer, Tim Ley and Larry Schmidt.
During the meeting, the commissioners made clear they had no idea yet what they were going to do about the impending Honey Creek Wind Farm, owned by Apex Clean Energy.
That company could file a permit this year to build 75 wind turbines that will each be as tall as 675 feet.
For comparison, the Rhodes Office Tower – the tallest building in downtown Columbus – is 629 feet tall and the two turbines on the Wynford Local School District campus are just over 120 feet tall.
Families enjoy their rural views
Concerns raised by residents Thursday varied from aesthetics to national security.
One woman told the commissioners she had grown up in Morrow County, then moved north to escape the droves of Columbus natives who had been moving into her home area. She thought Crawford County was a conservative area, but is now concerned that rights are being taken from residents and that the livelihood of farmers is in jeopardy.
Another said she moved here from Tiffin. Her husband was from Cleveland. They are raising six children in what they had intended to be their retirement home. They enjoy their rural setting.
“If we want food, we have to drive, but the advantages of living in the country are our peace, our views and our wildlife,” she told commissioners.
A plethora of wind turbines built in their neighborhood would take away all of those benefits.
Someone else said they feared China was behind the project, and was using it to slowly take control of America’s farmland.
Several mentioned the lost value of their properties, considering nobody will want to buy land with a view littered by monster windmills or rows of power lines.
‘They were trying to twist my arm’
Another mother said she felt threatened by the company when they first made contact with her – she said the spokesperson made her feel as though she had to sign their terms to appease her neighbors.
“I felt like they were trying to twist my arm,” she said.
Then she found out they intended to restrict where she placed her children’s playset and planted trees in the future.
“I don’t need a company coming in and telling me what I can and cannot do with what is mine,” she said. “I don’t have much space.”
A man asked the commissioners why the project was even being discussed in the first place, considering the land is prime for agriculture.
“Why would somebody want to destroy that for something that probably wouldn’t even help us?” he asked.
Then he brought up Weisenauer’s farm, which he called some of the best ground in the county – it happens to also be right in the middle of the potential wind farm.
“What would your ancestors say if they knew you were putting these big old fans up?” he asked. “They’re probably rolling over in their graves.”
Commissioner: no conflict of interest
Weisenauer answered that he’s researched how different generations feel about such projects, and has discovered that there was tremendous outcry in the 1930s when power lines were built across the countryside.
A woman had questions when she learned the commissioner owned land that was wanted for the project.
“I don’t want to be rude,” she said. “If you don’t answer, that’s fine. Have you been approached by the company? Is this a conflict of interest for you?”
Weisenauer responded that he has not signed anything with the company, and that he told Apex already that he will not because of his elected position.
Can Senate Bill 52 help Crawford County?
Should a permit for Honey Creek Wind Farm be requested, commissioners said at the very least they will intervene to ensure the county’s infrastructure is protected.
Ley explained that there are many hidden things in such documents that are best left sorted out by professionals.
“We would be lost if we tried to do it,” Ley said. “That’s why we hire an attorney to intervene.”
Residents asked about the authority that recently passed Senate Bill 52 gives to the county – it has been touted as a way for counties to determine what big solar or wind projects are built within the commissioners’ jurisdiction.
The commissioners agreed they are not in favor of passing down their own regulations on the townships, when the townships might prefer handling that zoning themselves.
They also don’t have clear guidance on how much of the authority in the bill’s first draft survived through myriad edits to the final version that was finally signed this month.
“As far as I’m concerned,” Weisenauer said, “Senate Bill 52 is a worthless piece of legislation.”