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Republic man argues against loosening rules for wind farms

A Republic resident addressed Seneca County commissioners Tuesday on the pitfalls of state legislation that would loosen restrictions on setbacks for wind turbines.

Chris Zeman has property that could be near wind farms and said he opposes the idea. He said the county would lose its ability to levy taxes on the area if turbines are installed.

Zeman said it would be better to allow property owners to expand or build new properties than to rely on tax income from the turbines.

He said if a deal is reached with a private company regarding the wind farms, it could lead to many losing property rights.

“In the last decade and a half, how much has housing grown in rural areas?” Zeman said. “If turbines show up and some farmer signs off, what’s that going to do to home sales, home values? If I put an addition on my house, that’s a tax generator for the county. What if I can’t build that?”

Zeman said he enjoys the tranquility and quiet of where he lives, but he’s afraid with wind farms, he may lose that.

Zeman said 10 counties in Ohio, including Seneca and Sandusky, have signed up for Alternative Energy Zones. He said commissioners in Van Wert County initially had one but rescinded the zone.

“We need to sit down and talk about it,” Zeman said, adding the commissioners should reach out to the board in Van Wert County. “There’s another side to it … I believe it demands some research.”

Commissioner Shayne Thomas said Oct. 9 he was in favor of the state loosening restrictions and he has testified on the issue in front of the state House and Senate. He said 2014 legislation tightening those restrictions effectively killed new wind-energy projects in Ohio, including a $400 million investment that could have occurred in Seneca County.

He said about 300 landowners are signed up for the program.

Thomas said the goal is for state legislators to find a solution that is economical for wind energy businesses and works for residents.

“This diversifies farming income,” he said, adding that most of the sites would be on the eastern side of the county.

The beneficiaries of extra tax dollars that would come from the program would be school districts, townships and the county.

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