State board grants extension to build two phases of wind farm

A state board granted an extension to two phases of a proposed wind farm in Champaign County Thursday, allowing the projects until May next year to begin construction.

The Ohio Power Siting Board sided with the developer, who argued the extensions were needed because years of litigation by opponents had delayed the project. The OPSB also ruled against a group of Champaign County residents who had sought to intervene in the project, arguing they had long ago missed a deadline to have a say in the process and instead relied on a separate group of opponents.

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Officials from Everpower Wind Holdings, the developer, could not be reached for comment Thursday. John Stock, an attorney representing a group of residents opposing the project also did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

The OPSB’s decision extends the certificate for two separate proposed phases of the wind farm to May 28, 2019, allowing more time for construction to begin.

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Attorneys representing Champaign County and Goshen Twp. have argued the developers have had opportunities to begin construction in recent years but have not done so. Instead, they argued, the developers have sought to make changes to the projects and are now seeking an extension just before the certificates were set to expire.

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The Champaign County project is split into two separate phases called Buckeye Wind and Champaign Wind. If it moves forward, it would install about 50 wind turbines across sections of Champaign County. The project has been controversial, with advocates arguing the project would boost revenue for local government entities and add new investment in the county.

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Residents opposed to the project have raised several concerns, arguing among other issues it could harm property values and create nuisances related to noise and flickering shadows cast by the turbine’s spinning blades. They have also argued Ohio’s siting process allowed the turbines to be built too close to residential homes and property lines.

On Thursday, members of the OPSB sided with the developers, arguing the extension was warranted because previous opponents had tied the case up in a legal fight for most of the last decade.

“(Developers) have demonstrated that litigation both at the Supreme Court of Ohio and the United State Court of Appeals has created significant delays in (developers’) commencement of construction of these projects,” The OPSB decision stated.

In April this year, a group of Champaign County residents opposed to the wind farm had sought to intervene in the case arguing they own property near the project’s footprint and will be affected if the project moves forward. But the OPSB ruled the group had long missed the deadlines to weigh in on the case, and instead had previously relied on members of Union Neighbors United, a separate group of opponents who fought the project in the courts for several years.

Members of UNU reached a settlement with the project’s developers last year.

“Notably, local residents do no allege they were unable to timely intervene, but instead relied on another stakeholder, UNU, to protect their interests,” the OPSB decision said.

The OPSB also noted the Champaign County board of commissioners, along with trustees from Goshen, Union and Wayne Twps. remain involved in the case to represent the interests of local residents.

The Springfield News-Sun has provided award-winning coverage of two proposed phases of a wind farm in Champaign County. The paper will continue to update the latest on the proposed project and its impact on area residents.

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