LIMA – The Allen County commissioners unanimously approved a map dictating where large industrial solar and wind projects can be built.
The commissioners held a public hearing Monday night to review the map and give anyone who wished to speak an opportunity to do so. After listening to the thoughts and concerns of the nearly 30 public commenters and holding another discussion amongst themselves, the board voted 3-0 in favor of accepting the map as presented. The map designates two industrially zoned areas open for development (Shawnee, Perry).
Before drawing the map, the board of commissioners asked all 12 townships for ordinances of what they wanted to see done. Commissioners say the input of township trustees was an important element in creating a map of possible development sites.
What we did here tonight was designate whether or not areas are optimal for alternative energy facilities,” Commissioner Cory Noonan said. “Working with our township trustees really allowed us to look at their land use and to receive recommendations on where and how they can be developed. And over the past couple months, we’ve taken their input and put together a map of Allen County, designating areas as open and restricted. Today was the culmination of all of that work.”
Commissioner Beth Seibert alluded to considering their wishes a final time Monday night before she cast her vote. She also noted that all county segments were represented by the 70 to 80 members of the public in attendance.
“I’m personally pleased such a cross-section of our county is here tonight, I thank you for that,” Seibert said. “Amongst all of tonight’s discussions, we heard trustees from the townships speak as to why they made the suggestions they did. One thing I listened for was to hear if any of them had changed their minds and I didn’t hear any who had.”
Many in the crowd cited incorrect thoughts that once a map was approved it could never be changed but that wasn’t the case as Noonan corrected for the record. He also added that it is not a prohibition against all “green energy,” just the mega industrial clean energy projects.
“This is not a complete prohibition against green energy,” Noonan clarified. “If a board adopts a modification to the map in the future, it would undergo the same process as we took here.”
The hearing was part of a process set out by Senate Bill 52, which became law in July. The bill significantly changed Ohio’s laws governing siting requirements for industrial solar and wind projects, giving county commissioners the ability to prevent Ohio Power Siting Board certification of certain wind and solar facilities.
After the hearing, commissioners can adopt a resolution designating unincorporated land in the county as a restricted area, prohibiting the construction of wind farms. If such a resolution is passed, people who support wind farm development would have 30 days to circulate petitions to request a referendum vote on the decision.
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