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Commissioners ‘sunset’ alternative energy zone

Seneca County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to “sunset” the alternative energy zone put in place in 2011 by a previous board. The AEZ will end June 30.

Holly Stacy voted against the resolution to rescind the AEZ, and Mike Kerschner and Shayne Thomas voted in favor of it.

Phasing out the AEZ in about three months does not affect the Seneca Wind or Republic Wind proposed projects, but would mean the AEZ is not automatically in place for companies that might propose new wind projects after June 30.

The resolution is an amended version of one proposed in November by Thomas. At that time, Thomas voted in favor of it while Kerschner and Stacy voted no.

In part, the resolution states that the commissioners “support our property owners in their right to participate in these projects and by extension support the projects.”

It also states that the board of commissioners “formally requests that the Ohio Power Siting Board, the FAA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the OEPA, ODOT, and all other relevant regulatory agencies diligently evaluate all matters related to ground and well water, karst zones, health and welfare, noise and flicker, as well as wildlife impact, specifically bats, raptors, and migratory birds.”

It also includes statements that “although the Seneca Wind and Republic Wind projects are accepted under the 2011 AEZ agreement, if they must resubmit their application they would no longer be

grandfathered under the agreement, based on a determination made by the Ohio Power Siting

Board.”

Commissioner Mike Kerschner changed his vote since the November vote was taken.

“The fact is that if we rescind it we then have the power within this group of negotiation,” Kerschner said. “It puts a lot more power on this group.”

He said Erie and Huron counties also have rescinded their AEZ programs.

“I think it’s a very good decision and think history will prove us right,” he said.

Kerschner said the sunset date on the original resolution was Sept. 10.

“I thought that was too far out,” he said. “I agreed to 90 days.”

Kerschner also said he asked for language to be added that states if either of the two projects that have been started under the EAZ have to re-apply to OPSB for any reason, they would not be grandfathered.

“In my opinion, there was too much ambiguity in the first resolution,” Kerschner said.

Thomas said the AEZ topic was revisited partially because the county’s township trustees requested it be rescinded.

He reiterated that Seneca Wind and Republic Wind projects are not affected unless they refile as a new project.

After voting no Thursday, Stacy said some people think rescinding the AEZ will provide more local control, but she said she doesn’t think so.

“I think when the AEZ was put in place by a former board of commissioners that it was done for the full intent to leave a level playing field for the businesses in the community and because it brought some protections to the county,” she said.

If a new project requests a PILOT — payment in lieu of taxes — she said the amount the county can allow is capped by the state at $9,000.

She said other aspects can be negotiated, but there’s no financial benefit.

Stacy said the commissioners of the future now will have to negotiate with each company individually.

“It brings to the board of commissioners the responsibility if an energy company wants to ask for a PILOT,” she said. “Some people think this brings us more control, but not with the dollars end of it.”

Chris Aichholz, spokesman for the local anti-wind organization, said “We consider today’s decision by the commissioners to rescind the alternative energy zone another achievement. These types of successes only come as a result of our tireless efforts to educate the community on the industrial wind turbine projects being proposed for our county.”

He said the group has been asking for the AEZ to be rescinded for almost a year.

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