Attorney: Don't expect Ohio Supreme Court decision soon

Cary Ashby • Mar 7, 2019 at 2:00 PM

The attorney representing Greenwich Neighbors United said he was satisfied with his oral argument Tuesday before the Ohio Supreme Court.

“I believe our argument went well,” attorney Matt Pritchard added.

Issues concerning the proposed Greenwich Windpark went before the Ohio Supreme Court because the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) oversees energy policies in the state. The board approved the project in August 2014.

One of the main issues is the minimum distance “from a wind turbine to the exterior of the nearest habitable residential structure located on an adjacent property,” according to court documents. That distance also is referred to as the “setback distance.”

“We focused a lot on setback waivers,” said Pritchard, referring to the number of the 124 adjacent property owners who did or didn’t sign waivers for possible distance violations.

OPSB spokesman Matt Butler has said he believes the Greenwich Windpark has been grandfathered into the minimum distances that were effective at the time the project application was filed. 

“The minimum distance … must be no less than 1,125 feet in horizontal distance from the tip of the turbine’s blade at 90 degrees to the structure. The minimum distance from a turbine's base to the property line of the wind farm facility must be at least 1.1 times the total height of the turbine as measured from its base to the tip of the blade at its highest point,” he said earlier this week.

The mission of the OPSB, according to its website, is to “support sound energy policies that provide for the installation of energy capacity and transmission infrastructure for the benefit of the Ohio citizens, promoting the state’s economic interests and protecting the environment and land use.”

The issues and questions addressed Tuesday before the Ohio Supreme Court were:

• Did the board “act unreasonably and unlawfully” when it didn’t apply minimum setback requirements effective Sept. 15, 2014 to the Greenwich Windpark’s request to add three new turbine models to a commercial wind farm?

• Did the addition of new turbines require the Greenwich Windpark to obtain new setback waivers from landowners?

• Was the OPSB required to hold a public hearing about the changes to the wind farm?

• Has the board failed to create rules as required by the legislature to establish reasonable regulations regarding wind farms?

“At least 17 of the 25 (wind turbines) violated the setback,” Pritchard said.

Greenwich Township resident Kevin Ledet said he owns 57 acres “on the fringe of the project” and believes Greenwich Neighbors United has a good case.

“There are people who own a lot more than that,” he added. “There are a lot of people affected by this.”

Ledet said it’s believed 62 percent of the 25 proposed wind turbines will violate the minimum setback distance and “none of us have signed the waiver.”

Pritchard, the Greenwich Neighbors United attorney, was asked what could happen if the court rules in favor of the group. He said there are three options: 1) the project developer could “walk away,” 2) if the developer pursues the wind park, representatives most likely would need to seek adjacent property owners to obtain the setback waivers and 3) restructure or repackage a proposal for a similar project.

The Ohio Supreme Court gave attorneys no timetable on when to expect a decision.

“I wouldn’t expect anything in under a month,” said Pritchard, who added a decision could be six months away.

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