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Wind suit moves to next step

PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE Peter Palowski (foreground), vice president of wind for sPower, which is developing the proposed Seneca Wind project, offers information as retired Judge Robert Pollex, who previously served in Wood County Common Pleas Court, listens Monday.

A judge ruled Monday he did not have enough information to grant a temporary restraining order in a case filed by a wind farm developer seeking a court order to enter properties.

A preliminary injunction hearing was set for 9 a.m. Feb. 22 after retired Judge Robert Pollex, who previously served in Wood County Common Pleas Court, issued his ruling Monday.

Pollex had been appointed to the case by Ohio Supreme Court after Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley stepped aside from the case last week.

Seneca Wind is proposing to develop a wind farm of up to 212 megawatts in Seneca County’s Scipio, Reed, Venice, Eden and Bloom townships. The project would be built on about 25,000 acres of privately leased land and would use 77 turbines and related infrastructure, court records state.

The complaint filed in Seneca County Common Pleas Court states that each defendant refused to allow Seneca Wind access to their properties and that Seneca Wind needs to access the properties to analyze, plan and construct the project and to provide key information to Ohio Power Siting Board as it considers the application.

“Enough is enough,” said John Stock, an attorney representing the defendants.

Stock said the project never got off the ground, and after 10 years, the landowners had had enough. The leases had burdened their properties in significant ways and reduces the value of the properties, he said.

Seneca Wind officials, Stock said, had done nothing for 10 years, and could have been doing surveys and figured out a property line issue.

“We haven’t caused any delay,” he said.

Stock said the assertion that the emergency is caused by the wrongful conduct of the defendants is “absurd.”

In the constitution, one has the right to own property and the right to protect it, he said.

“They’ve had enough,” he said. “Their leases are expired.”

The complaint was filed against Christopher Carry, Elizabeth Carry, Melissa Carry, Alice Jane Chappell, Marvin Hahler, Raymond Hahler, David Holmer, Doris Holmer, Danette Martin, Brandon Martin, Debra Martin, John Martin, Betty Oakleaf, Brad Oakleaf, Gary Oakleaf, Theresa Oakleaf, Eugene Price, Judith Price, Cory Swartzmiller, David Swartzmiller, Barbara Vogel, Donald Vogel, Dale Wagner, Shirley Wagner, Joseph Willman, Marilyn Willman, Mary Joan Willman, Thomas Willman, Bonnie Ziegler and Mark Ziegler.

According to court records, Joseph Willman, Marilyn Willman, Mary Joan Willman and Thomas Willman were dismissed from the case.

Attorney Kara Herrnstein of Bricker & Eckler Attorneys at Law said there are strong opinions about the wind project.

In Ohio, she said, it’s still new. People still are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, she said.

“We are not here today for a referendum on wind power,” she said.

Herrnstein said sPower only purchased the project in 2017 and worked as quickly as possible to move the project forward.

“We do have the right under the lease to begin construction activities. We do not have the right under Ohio law to begin certain activities. … We have begun the construction phase under the law,” she said.

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