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Scioto Ridge Wind Farm clears legal challenge

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The Ohio Power Siting Board dismissed local residents’ requests Monday that new hearings be conducted for the Scioto Ridge Wind Farm project in northern Logan and southern Hardin counties.

On March 17, the siting board approved EverPower Wind Holdings’ proposal to build the industrial wind development that would consist of up to 176 turbines, each nearly 500 feet tall and spread over 17,000 acres.

After that decision, Joe Grant, a landowner who lives in the project area, and a group of Indian Lake property owners each filed legal challenges in order to have new public hearings on the issue.

Following the denial of the requests, the residents now have 60 days to decide if they wish to file an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Mr. Grant based his objections to the project on five issues: lack of consideration of the endangered Indiana brown bat; inadequate setbacks from neighboring properties, shadow flicker issues, noise concerns and a belief that residents of the six townships involved should be able to vote on the proposal.

Regarding the first four objections, the siting board ruled that EverPower followed the letter of the law in the design that was approved, and both the company and residents opposed to the project presented their cases prior to the board’s decision.

On the matter of a public vote, the board wrote in the ruling that there is no such provision for a vote in existing law and that such an objection should be raised in the Ohio legislature.

“Mr. Grant’s belief, expressed in his application for rehearing, as well as at the evidentiary hearing, that the decision whether to approve or deny the application in the wind turbine case should be made by a vote of the individuals who live in the areas affected by the project, was similarly voiced by several members of the public at the local public hearing,” the ruling reads.

“As we noted (in) the order: ‘while we recognize that certain members of the public in the affected areas of these projects wish to have the decisions on granting or denying wind turbine projects based on a secret ballot of registered voters, the board is bound by the statutory mandates established by the Ohio General Assembly which do not include such suggested procedures.’ ”

The request for rehearing of Indian Lake residents, James Rudolph, Rich Rudolph, Susan Cornell, Ron Brown and Charles Ruma, was based on claims that EverPower did not conduct and advertise the informational hearings at times when seasonal residents would be aware of the project and that effects on property value were not adequately addressed.

The board again agreed with EverPower on the issues, noting that numerous Indian Lake area residents did speak on the issue at the hearings and other meetings before the ruling and that property value issues around Indian Lake were raised and considered during the hearing process.

In denying the request, the board wrote:

“We also find no merit to the claim that the two interests cited by the Indian Lake residents warrant the board granting the petition to intervene. As discussed previously, the issue related to the impacts on property values and the conservation and preservation of land, including to Indian Lake, were both parts of the record in these cases and were fully considered by the board.

“We further note that (the visual impact assessment) includes multiple photographs showing Indian Lake, as well as a variety of maps that clearly identify Indian Lake in proximity to some of the wind turbine locations approved in the wind turbine case.”

If the plan to construct turbines clears the final legal hurdle in the Supreme Court, EverPower officials still will need to file a Payment in Lieu of Taxes request with the Logan County Commissioners. If that is granted, construction likely would not begin until at least 2015.

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