EATON — The Preble County Board of Commissioners met with Preble County CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) and the Solid Waste District’s Beth Wright on Monday, Oct. 3. They also received public comments from Mark Gebhart regarding the potential introduction of solar energy in Harrison Township.
The meeting was opened in prayer by Scott Robertson, administrator for Covenant of Peace International Church (COPI) located on U.S. 127, who also informed the Commissioners of COPIs upcoming four-day missions conference beginning the last Sunday of October annually.
During the public participation segment of the meeting, Mark Gebhart, a local land owner in Harrison Township, expressed his concern over a proposed solar farm potentially being constructed near Lewisburg. Gebhart inquired how the community might be forewarned should any solar companies begin building processes. Commissioner Rachael Vonderhaar replied that should such an action take place, land owners adjacent to the proposed property would receive notice of a public meeting, which would “start a time-clock” for documentation to be filed for a solar farm’s construction.
Commissioner Adam Craft added that, as of this time, there is no such documentation registered with the appropriate parties. Craft stated the only communication he has had with solar was regarding Senate Bill 52, a bill which addresses agricultural development. Senate Bill 52 also “permits a board of county commissioners to prevent power siting board certification of certain wind and solar facilities, to provide for ad hoc members of the power siting board, and to establish decommissioning requirements for certain wind and solar facilities.”
Gebhart continued, “With Senate Bill 52, you can vote to exclude Harrison Township or just this project, or whatever. What stage is too late for you to do that?”
Craft stated his personal opinion on the matter: “I’m not speaking for the board; I’m speaking for me. So, one of the things I have been looking at, is it right for us to grant a solar exclusion zone for the entire township, like what was requested of us, or do we do more of a surgical map that says, ‘hey, if you wanted to put something in these locations, that would be okay because it’s not ideal for anything else.’ Versus taking an all or nothing approach that we see in Butler County or Allan County where they just blanketed everything.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to our landowners to take a blanket approach to anything when it comes to their right and ability to make money on their property. And I want to be clear on that. It’s not that I don’t hear where you’re coming from, because I don’t want your neighbor to negatively impact you. But I also don’t want to tell your neighbors, “hey, you can’t make money on your land how you see fit.’ Because I think that’s the most American thing that we have, is the right to do what we want to do on our own property,” Craft concluded.
Whereas Gebhart expressed his understanding in Craft’s opinion, he also noted there are “hundreds” of existing zoning laws prohibiting what can and cannot been done with property based on the negative impact caused to neighbors.
Craft added, he is not taking the situation lightly, and is still gathering his sources before taking a definitive stance on the potential situation.
Gebhart reaffirmed he is not against solar, but is opposed to using fertile soil for solar farms. Gebhart requested the Board of Commissioners visit Harrison Township to hold a public meeting regarding the situation, where the commission can hear the community’s thoughts and feelings on the matter.
The board agreed they will hold unofficial, public meetings in November regarding the subject, but has not yet set an official date or location.
In other business:
• The board established Wednesday, Oct. 26, as the date for the second public railroad meeting discussing the contract signed with Norfolk Southern Railroad.
• The board also received a report from Preble County CVB, updating the commissioners on preparations being made for Oktoberfest, the Black Walnut Festival and more. The CVB has also begun advertising on YouTube for events around Preble County, which aims at catching the attention of younger crowds.
The CVB also updated the board on sponsored Downtown Eaton Inc. events, as well as the new visitor guides which will be coming out in February.
• Commissioners also received the quarterly recycling report from Beth Wright, which included amounts of recycled waste from the Preble County Fair, Preble County Historical Society events, but did not yet include the Pork Festival. Wright also updated the board on her current budget strains for recycling and current equipment conditions, of which the board will further investigate.
For more information about Senate Bill 52, visit www.legislature.ohio.gov.
For more information about the Preble County CVB, visit www.preblecountypassport.com.
Reach Nathan Hoskins at 937-683-4057 and follow on Twitter @NathanHoskins13