Commissioners vote to oppose wind turbines

Seneca County commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to formally oppose construction of wind turbine projects in the county.

They voted to “withdraw all previous support of the Seneca Wind, Republic Wind or any proposed wind turbine projects to the maximum extent allowed by law.”

Commissioners Mike Kerschner and Tony Paradiso were in favor of the resolution, and Commissioner Shayne Thomas voted no.

The resolution requested that the county prosecutor become the commissioners’ counsel of record in wind turbine projects as well as represent townships if there is no conflict of interest. Former attorneys representing the county in wind project matters were “released.”

The resolution amends a March resolution known as the AEZ sunset resolution, which rescinded the Alternative Energy Zone in the county as of June 30.

Paradiso read portions of the resolution that say the commissioners are “in support of public safety by requesting longer setbacks than current law allows”; are in support of the county’s investment in the Seneca County airport and recognize the importance of Life Flight services; and “are concerned about wind turbines with one mile of any K-12 county school.”

Kerschner said he has heard concerns from Seneca East school board, airport operators, township trustees, Seneca County Park District and other groups. He said not only the county airport would be affected but 11 private air strips.

He said the new legislation allows joint meetings with affected township trustees and no longer causes of conflict with the county prosecutor.

Before his no vote, Thomas said, “We’re saying that property owners have a legal right to develop wind on their property, yet we’re taking a position that undermines their legal property rights, and that problematic for me.”

“People are speaking up, so there are some things that I feel I want to go on the record with,” Paradiso said.

As a former pilot, he said he concerns about the airport issues.

“We spent a lot of money over a lot of years buying property, and we’re extending the taxiway,” he said.

He said he talked with Seneca East school personnel and county park managers, who expressed concerns about turbines near schools and nature preserve.

“Some of the people feel the setbacks are not adequate,” he said.

The meeting was attended by a room full of Seneca Anti-Wind Union members wearing bright yellow shirts, and Thomas invited public comment before the vote.

Deb Hay of Thompson Township said, “I see two commissioners who want to do what the people of this county want and I would appreciate it if you would just get it done.”

Dan White of Tiffin said, “I think this ground has been gone over a number of times and all the rocks and the problems have been pulled to the surface. Enough. Let’s get this work done and done right.”

After the meeting, Paradiso, who proposed the resolution, said he met with a lot of people on many topics after he was appointed county commissioner to replace Holly Stacy.

“A majority of those are anti-wind,” he said. “I spent time with a lot of people, and a majority of those are anti-wind. “I spent time looking at the other side as well to get information, but felt this issue has divided the county far too long.”

So, in his second meeting as a commissioner, he proposed the resolution.

“I wanted to bring it up and put it on the table right away,” he said.

After the meeting, Kerschner said his job is to be responsible to the people of the county, and empirical data shows the chance for health risks.

“The perception is we’re putting them in harm’s way,” he said. “Whether or not those are true or false is in the future. We can’t talk about what might happen in the future. We had to make a decision now.”

Kerschner said he hopes a bill in the Ohio House proposed by Rep. Bill Reineke will create a law that allows for a local vote.

“The best result in my opinion would be the ability of folks to vote on the issue,” he said.

After the meeting, Thomas said his opinion hasn’t changed that property owners have a legal right to place wind turbines on their property if they wish.

Except when the matter affects county-owned property such as the airport or county roads, he said he thinks the county should remain neutral.

“I think this is an unfortunate occurrence,” he said.