Local wind farm gets public hearing

Two phases of project could result in about 100 turbines in Champaign County.

If approved, the project would potentially install more than 50 wind turbines across 13,500 acres between Urbana and Mechanicsburg. The Ohio Power Siting Board will host a public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“This is the opportunity for residents to get their sworn testimony on the record in the case,” said Matt Butler, public outreach manager for the siting board.

If the project moves forward as proposed, it would create close to 600 jobs during construction and 38 permanent jobs, and provide between $840,000 and $1.26 million in local annual tax revenue, according to a staff report released by the state. Combined with the first phase of the project, it could mean as many as 100 turbines would be built across six townships in the county. But opponents have raised concerns about the project’s safety, and said the proposed turbines are sited too close to local homes. Local government officials have also raised additional concerns, such as the project’s potential impact on property values, the cost to decommission the turbines, and potential impacts to emergency responders such as CareFlight.

The testimony provided will be considered when members of the siting board review the project, along with a state staff report that was finalized last week and testimony that will be offered in an adjudicatory hearing scheduled to begin in Columbus on Nov. 8.

“It’s one component of the board’s decision-making process,” Butler said.

There will be no time limit for residents to voice their opinion, Butler said, but residents are asked to be respectful of others so everyone has an opportunity to speak. The public hearing is a common part of the process for utility projects proposed to the siting board.

If the project is approved, construction on both phases of the project could begin by next year, said Jason Dagger, project developer for the Buckeye Wind Project. Other wind farms have already been sited and built in Ohio, but Dagger said the initial phase of the Buckeye Wind project was one of the first in the state to go through the siting process.

It is not clear what will be said at the meeting, said Julie Johnson, a member of the Union Neighbors United group that opposes the project. But her concern is that doubling the number of turbines in the project’s footprint could increase the impact on local property owners. She also said she hopes residents who have a financial stake in the project will identify themselves as such when testifying.

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