Crawford County commissioners’ public hearing on whether to restrict industrial wind development Thursday will be just that: a hearing.
“The commissioners are there to hear comments; we’re not there to answer their questions,” Doug Weisenauer, president of the board of commissioners, said last week. The session, which starts at 1 p.m. Thursday in the youth building at the Crawford County Fairgrounds, will be moderated by Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall.
There will be a sign-in desk at the front door. People who wish to speak during the hearing, which will be recorded, will need to register before the session starts.
“Matt will be calling people at random,” Weisenauer said. “If people want to just submit their written comments, they don’t have to speak, but we’ll take their written comments.”
Apex Clean Energy has been developing Honey Creek Wind in the northern half of the county. The 300-megawatt industrial wind farm is expected to include approximately 60 turbines. An opposition group, Crawford Anti-Wind, has been circulating petitions in an effort to get the commissioners to restrict development.
The commissioners’ decision to have the hearing is the first step in 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.
Apex representatives will give presentation
Thursday’s session will open with a brief presentation by Apex representatives. Commissioners want to be sure people understand the basics of what the company has planned, Commissioner Tim Ley said.
That segment won’t include a question and answer session, either, Weisenauer said – though Apex representatives have said they’re willing to answer questions following the meeting or outside of the meeting.
“We’re not going to stand there and get beat up during the meeting,” Weisenauer said. “It’s not going to turn into a shouting match.”
Through much of this year, commissioners have had people show up at their weekly meetings to voice opinions on the wind farm issue, Weisenauer and Ley said – often a dozen at a time. At first, most were anti-wind, but lately wind farm proponents have been showing up, too.
“Last week, it turned into a shouting match,” Weisenauer said. “I just stopped the meeting and we walked out. If we want to have a civil conversation, we’ll be happy to sit here and talk. But if it’s not going to be civil, it will end.”
The same goes for Thursday’s public hearing, he said: “If people can’t control themselves and they start yelling, we’ll end it. I think that’s only fair.”
Meeting scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m.
Speakers at Thursday’s hearing will be limited to three minutes. The meeting is scheduled to conclude at 3:30 p.m., according to a fact sheet provided by the commissioners.
“We’re not going to be there till midnight,” Weisenauer said.
After the hearing, commissioners can adopt a resolution designating unincorporated land in the county as a restricted area, prohibiting construction of wind farms. Ley said commissioners have not set a date for when they’ll vote on such a resolution.
If one is passed, people who support wind farm development would have 30 days to circulate petitions to request a referendum vote on the decision.
“We hope it goes to the ballot,” Weisenauer said. “We don’t want our decision to be the final one.”
“It’s just right that it should go to the voters,” Ley added.
Ley is finishing his first term as commissioner, while Weisenauer has served more than 13 years. Neither remembers any other issue evoking this much response.
“This is a pretty divisive issue,” Weisenauer said. “And like I’ve been saying all along, people are spreading false information and then somebody else believes it because they saw it on Facebook. I tell people go educate yourself. Go visit a wind farm. Make your own decisions. I’m not going to tell you that everything’s perfect, but you have to do something.”
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