Champaign County wind farm challenges residents’ right to fight project

6:00 p.m Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 Community News

Developers of a proposed wind farm in Champaign County have challenged the ability of a group of local residents to intervene in its legal case, arguing they live outside the project’s footprint and wouldn’t be affected by the wind turbines.

The wind farm, which initially included plans to build about 100 turbines across six townships, has been tangled in legal disputes that have lasted about a decade.

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Everpower Wind Holdings, the project’s developer, finally reached an agreement last year with members of Union Neighbors United, a group of residents who opposed the project. That deal slashed the total number of turbines proposed to about 50, with only one turbine to be built in Union Twp. In return, members of UNU agreed not to object to the smaller, revised project.

Now, a new group of residents opposes the revised project. Everpower says in a memo filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board that some of those residents should be excluded because they don’t own property in the project area, rather they live between 1.5 to 2.9 miles away.

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“It is not enough for a person seeking to intervene in a proceeding such as this to merely state that he or she resides in a county wherein the project under consideration is proposed to be sited,” Everpower’s filing states.

John Stock, an attorney representing the residents, filed a response this week countering that the residents established homes in the area long before the project was proposed. And even if they’re not directly within the project’s footprint, the filing says they will still be affected by the turbines.

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“While they may not reside as close to EverPower’s wind turbines as members of the admitted group, nonetheless they will be subjected to continual, disruptive noise from the turbines — noise to which they previously have not been subjected,” the response says. “Furthermore, their beautiful rural viewscapes and property values will be diminished.”

The opponents also raised several other concerns about the project, including arguing state law passed since the project was first approved requires that each turbine be set back at least 1,125 feet from property lines not included in the project. Instead, they argue the project uses setback requirements of 541 feet from adjacent property lines, which was the requirement when the state first approved the project.

They argue that by amending the initial two phases of the project, the wind farm is subject to the tougher setbacks.

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Everpower, however, said their arguments should be limited to a single issue of which model of turbine is used for the project. The developer argued the setback issues have been decided and are outside the scope of the most recent applications.

“… a desire to re-litigate legal issues that the (Ohio Power Siting Board) has already decided in favor of other applicants in the past is not a sufficient interest that allows for intervention on those issues in this proceeding,” attorneys for Everpower say in their filing.

But Stock argued it’s clear the tougher setback requirements should apply to the project.

“UNU asserted in its Ohio Supreme Court case against Everpower that the setback requirements … apply to the project as a result of amendments made to Everpower’s certificates after the effective date of those statutory requirements,” Stock says in his reply to the siting board. “And Everpower apparently settled that case by amending the project to remove all but one turbine from Union Township in Champaign County — removing more than 50 turbines from the project.”