By Amanda Ensinger
As a proposed solar project moves forward, residents in Prairie and Pleasant townships got an opportunity to share their opinions on the project. On May 25, the Prairie Township trustees held a public meeting to discuss the project.
Approximately 30 residents attended, most to express opposition to the project.
“This project will decrease property values and cripple acres and acres of farm land, making it useless for future development,” said Larry Krist, Prairie Township resident. “As a home rule township, Prairie Township should be upset that our input is minimal for this project. This project is a big deal, it is going to last 40 years and be as big as a small town or village.”
Residents expressed concerns about the construction noise during the two years it will take for the project to be built, the close proximity of the solar panels to their properties, the impact this will have on drinking water and how this will negatively impact the animals that roam the region.
The proposed solar project is for a 250-megwatt 1,700-acre solar farm that would stretch across Prairie and Pleasant townships. Spearheaded by Invenergy, the project would take place on farmland that has been leased for a period of 40 years.
The project will be about 16 times larger than downtown Columbus and have a major impact on the region that has boasted a quaint country life next to the 14th largest city in the country. Residents enjoy the best of both worlds; they get to live in a natural area while having all the amenities of a major city a few miles away.
Residents argued that Prairie Township is not the right location for a project like this and it should be in an industrial site or a region zoned commercial.
“If you go along the freeway, that is typically where you see these projects,” said Greg Hart of Pleasant Township. “This is going to change Prairie and Pleasant township for the worst. We don’t want it. There are so many opportunities to have it other places that won’t effect so many people.”
Residents also had concerns about the property values of their homes, saying that someday when they sell their homes, no one is going to want to buy them if they are next to a large project like this.
“If you are saying no one’s property values will be impacted, then give us a bond and guarantee our property values are protected,” said John Harrison, Prairie Township resident. “We already have preexisting flooding, and this is going to make it worse. Give us a bond guaranteeing there won’t be additional flooding.”
Other residents said they moved to the township for beautiful views and this project would ruin that.
“I enjoy the country lifestyle and have creek frontage,” said Doug Buttrick of Prairie Township. “I want to watch deer cross my property, go rabbit hunting, deer hunting and catch fish in the creek. When I look out my door I see trees everywhere, all those trees will be cut down because they will put shade on their solar panels. You won’t see any animals anymore, it is going to be awful.”
These concerns have caused Prairie Township, Pleasant Township and Franklin County Metro Parks to become interveners in this project, meaning they can address concerns with Invenergy and ask them to make modifications to the project.
Prairie Township Attorney Peter Griggs said that county and township zoning laws cannot be applied to large energy projects and the Ohio Power Siting Board has the final say if the project can proceed. Currently, Invenergy has an application for the project submitted to the board and a decision will be made later in the summer or early fall if the project can proceed.
Prairie Township trustee Stephen Kennedy said based on what he has seen in the past, he thinks they will approve the project.
“I think this project is coming, so it is better to have a conversation with Invenergy and ask for changes to the project before it is too late,” Kennedy said. “I am neutral on this project, I believe in property rights and I don’t think we should tell a property owner what they can do with their land.”
Kennedy added that this is a state project and as a result, it trumps all zoning laws.
Representatives from Invenergy did not comment throughout the meeting but were in attendance. The only comment that was made by the group was that they don’t believe there will be any impact on water quality as a result of the project.
Any additional interveners have until June 25 to submit concerns about the project.
Residents can attend a virtual public meeting July 19 to address the Ohio Power Sitting Board about concerns about the project. The township also plans to update its website with additional information about the project in the coming weeks.