CRAWFORD COUNTY — Crawford County commissioners recently voted to pause wind farm development across the county and return the decision to voters.
The resolution halts construction of Apex Clean Energy’s 300-megawatt wind farm, which was expected to include approximately 60 turbines.
In a 2-1 outcome, Commissioner Doug Weisenauer voted against the measure, while Commissioners Tim Ley and Larry Schmidt supported the restricting resolution.
The members’ newfound power emanates from Ohio Senate Bill 52, which became law last summer, enabling county commissioners to make decisions about wind farm development, instead of township trustees or the state’s Power Siting Board in Columbus.
“I voted to restrict it, simply because it allows Crawford County to seek approval from the voters. Those people can speak,” Ley explained in part. “Three people were being asked to speak for the whole 40,000 people in Crawford County. There are many pro and anti-wind people, so how in the world can three commissioners take their constituents, juggle that feeling, and make an informed decision that’s going to affect 25,000 voters and their children? We represent the farmers, non farmers, and all citizens.”
Dozens of activists from the grassroots “Crawford Anti-Wind” group attended the May 5 vote, after distributing petitions and attending public meetings for months across the county.
“Like Tim, I believe the citizens should be making that call,” Schmidt said. “To get it on the ballot, they have to get the petitions out there. There are some people harassing the petitioners, which I find disturbing. I would like to see it up for a vote…I encourage everyone who’d like a chance to vote on it to sign the petition.”
If petitions are filed, it forces a November referendum on the issue that could overrule the commissioners’ actions. Those petitions must be filed by June 4 and signed by 8 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election, equaling about 1,200. If a petition is not filed, the commissioners’ resolution goes into effect.
Ley also emphasized that if people want to see the measure on the ballot, they need to sign the petition, regardless of their position. The three commissioners say they were the first to sign the petition.
Weisenauer’s objection to the decision is about overstepping authority “by usurping the home rule authority of the residents and the township trustees.” He deemed it government overreach into property owners’ rights.
Apex has leased land for several years in northern Crawford County for “Honey Creek Wind.” Developers would make annual payments, per megawatt, to Crawford county each year, expected to generate $2.7 million. The Virginia-based company is irked by the decision.
“The Crawford County decision to make the county a wind energy exclusion zone came as a tremendous disappointment to us and the hundreds of landowners who have been looking forward to hosting Honey Creek Wind facilities on their private property,” Apex Public Engagement Manager Julie Drenner told the Inquirer. “Those who believe that a decision about their private property rights should go directly to the voters, rather than be decided by county commissioners, have the opportunity to sign an official petition requesting that the question be put on the November ballot.”
Linda Schulze of Bloomville worries about her quiet settings and natural wildlife being threatened.
“Our neighbors do not have the right to willingly harm us,” she recently wrote to the Inquirer. “These gigantic wind turbines might eventually prove to be a fine source of energy, but the first experiment with them should be in a much less populated area. Until all of the ill effects are determined, thoroughly studied, and resolved, they need to only be constructed in isolated areas.”
Schulze also noted that noise from the turbines, which may approach skyscraper heights of 1,000 feet, can cause headaches, nausea, sleep deprivation, and more.