A 20-second ovation followed Crawford County commissioners’ vote to restrict industrial wind farm development in all unincorporated areas of the county, with members of Crawford Anti-Wind rising to their feet.
“I wanted to just jump up and down,” Kay Weisenauer said. “Just thankful to the good Lord. He’s in charge. Just a lot of thankfulness.”
The resolution, passed 2-1 at a regular meeting on Thursday, effectively bars construction of Honey Creek Wind, Apex Clean Energy’s planned 300-megawatt industrial wind farm – at least for now.
Commissioners Tim Ley and Larry Schmidt voted in favor of the resolution; Doug Weisenauer voted against it.
Senate Bill 52, which became law in July, 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 (OPSB) certification of certain wind and solar facilities.
It also gives wind farm supporters the ability to file petitions forcing a November referendum vote on the issue, which could overturn the commissioners’ action. Those petitions, which must be filed within 30 days of Thursday’s vote, must be signed by at least 1,182 registered voters – that’s 8% of the 14,767 votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in the most recent governor election, Matt Crall, county prosecutor, explained at an April 23 public hearing on the issue.
If no petitions are filed, the commissioners’ resolution would go into effect at the end of 30 days.
Commissioners explain their votes
Weisenauer outlined his objections to the decision before the vote.
“By approving this resolution, we would essentially be overstepping our authority by usurping the home rule authority of the residents and the township trustees,” he said. It could be interpreted as government overreach, even if it complies with the terms set forth under SB 52. “This resolution might be legal, but that does not make it right.
“We swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment clearly gives property owners protection against government seizure. This is a decision that should be made by the voters. I believe strongly in property owners’ rights and I feel it is wrong for the commissioners to impose zoning restrictions on to the community.”
Both Ley and Schmidt said they expect the issue to end up on the ballot.
“I believe a decision to vote to restrict is allowing all of the citizens of Crawford County to make an informed choice as to whether they want wind energy or not in the county, through the petition and referendum,” Schmidt said before the vote. “You’ll have that right and your destiny will be in your hands.”
“I think it was a win for everyone,” Ley said after the vote. “It allows this to go onto the ballot – if they get the signatures required – but it takes the decision off of three men and puts it onto the public. So now the public, registered voters in Crawford County, can vote on the windmills, allow or disallow inside Crawford County. That’s a whole lot better. … It’s off our shoulders, because this has been weighing on us for four or five months.”
Apex representative: ‘We are disappointed’
Apex has been leasing land in the northern half of the county for Honey Creek Wind for several years. The farm was expected to include approximately 60 turbines. Wind farm developers would make an annual Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT fee, of $9,000 per megawatt, nameplate capacity, to the county each year, generating $2.7 million.
“We are disappointed,” Julie Drennen, Apex’s public engagement manager in Ohio, said after the vote. “We had hoped that the commissioners would side on the side of property rights and let OPSB do its process. The application process is rigorous and thorough, and we’re prepared to do that. We were hoping that they would allow OPSB to do what they’re supposed to do in this. That’s our first reaction. It’s certainly a disappointing decision.”
Apex supports getting the issue on the ballot in November, Drennen said.
“People should have a say in this decision, so now that we’re here, we want to give people the opportunity to speak up on the matter, so we’re going to be a part of that. But it’s beyond us. It’s a countywide discussion on should you have a say on whether clean energy can happen here.”
“We look forward to the day when Honey Creek Wind is built,” said Tyler Fehrman, field manager for Apex. “It’s up to the voters at this point.”
“Despite our disappointment, we have great land-owners and we’ve had great conversations in Crawford County and we look forward to keep working here; that’s our feeling,” Drennen said.
Crawford Anti-Wind member: ‘A great day’
Many of the 50-plus people who crowded into the lower level conference room at the county administration building for the meeting Thursday wore Crawford Anti-Wind’s signature yellow shirts.
Group members circulated petitions seeking a ban on wind farm development, attended countless public meetings across the county and organized anti-wind information sessions.
Member Paula Iler said she was proud of the commissioners’ vote.
“I just think this is a great day moving forward for our county; we’re just trying to do the right thing for the people in this county, help the environment,” she said. “We value education and we built great schools. We’re sustaining our own schools without money from Apex. We’re a farming community and we want to promote farming, not wind turbines. There’s a place for them, but that’s not in this community.”
Kay Weisenauer said she’s grateful for the many people who backed the opposition’s effort.
“I’m pleased, I’m excited and I know it’s the right choice for our county,” she said. “We’re heading in a good direction. Keep this a good place to live and we want people to stay here and love where they’re at, you know.”
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