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Windt im Wald
A Wind in the Woods
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995
The Wind Turbine Is Going Up--- Three Years in Limbo!


 Watch us grow.  90 photos total in sequence.
Back in March 2010 we submitted plans to install a lilliputian 10kw wind turbine on our 20-acre farm. The Auburn Township Zoning Inspector, Frank V. Kitko, okayed our procedure but added, “Make sure you don't make a profit...” because making a profit would mean that the procedure was no longer an agricultural exception. Huh??? Since when was making a profit a reason for losing agricultural exception? This gibberish made no sense to us, but after a pleasant newspaper article about our interest in alternative energy, suddenly two neighbors about half-a-mile distant started organizing all the homeowner associations all over our township. “The wind turbines are coming!! The wind turbines ARE COMING!! THE WIND TURBINES ARE COMING!!!!” Gee, all this hullabaloo for a 10 kw wind turbine, when 5kw emergency generators are pretty common!

Inspector Kitko with the aid of Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney started devising sets of questions for us to answer. Technically, the only information that can be used to process a conditional use is the information on the application, not additional information that township officials call for out of the air. We no sooner answered the first battery when a second set arrived through the mail. It started to feel like an inquisition, especially when Matheney intoned, “You will not be a role model...” We had no intention of being “role models,” just farmers. It began to feel like harassment. More importantly, why couldn't a farm with a wind turbine to produce its energy needs be a role model? There was something bisarrely irregular about this whole course of events.

In July 2010 a registered letter from Kitko rescinded our agricultural exemption, on the rationale that one question had not been answered on time, and more than likely, the powers that be,that is the three elected Trustees, were telling the Zoning Inspector how and what to act. For some reason the two of us had become the symbol of the side to put down because one individual had stated to the Trustees,” If you don't give us what we want, we'll vote you out of office. “We were two voters, and these others taking our property rights as a farm from us were acting like the power honchos.

This was not the first time that a farm and its farmers were put down and discouraged. It started to become a little evident that only some of the voters were equal. For the local newspapers Kitko communicated that the only way to get approval for a wind turbine was through the Board of Zoning Appeals and a Conditional Use. Even County Commissioner Tracy Jemison stated that it would be far easier to get a conditional use than to fight the issue in court, even though ORC 519.21 clearly states that township zoning has no authority to regulate farms in any way.

Kitko went so far as to send illegal letters to state and federal governmental agencies to advise that we were not eligible for the grant process, though we had already put in incalculable numbers of hours and sweat equity in that very process. These agencies regulated the federal and state grant processes in Columbus. Zoning Inspector Kitko asked that we be disqualified for consideration in the grant process. Ironically, in spite of all of the malevolent actions, we became the recipients of both federal and state grants.

Unfortunately, Auburn Township's disregard for our property rights in the form of a Board of Zoning Appeals decision that stated the wind turbine was not “strictly” agricultural for our horse farm resulted in our initiating a court action in Geauga County. Eleven months later Geauga Common Pleas Court under Judge Fuhry ruled that our 10 kw wind turbine was a wind farm! Never mind that “a wind farm,” as in wind farms in western Ohio, consists of more than one turbine. Undaunted, we filed an appeal with the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in late 2011.

The decision of the Appeals Court was made on December 28, 2012. It was a belated Christmas present that ruled Judge Fuhry had been in error and ordered the case be remanded to his courtroom. On May 15, 2013, Judge Fuhry agreed that he had been in error because he had assumed that Auburn Township had a zoning amendment covering wind turbines, even though Trustees Troyan, Eberly, and Cavanagh had rejected that zoning amendment on August 17, 2011. Even so Judge Fuhry, should have concluded that agricultural is exempt from zoning rendering the possible zoning amendment a moot point.

The May 15, 2013 decision, gave us the right to do what we should have been allowed to do from the outset—install a wind turbine to save on our farm electric bills without having Auburn Township butt in on our business and deprive us of our property rights.

The correct wind turbine tower arrived on September 9, 2013, in a flatbed trailer pulled by a ¾ ton Ford truck. The delivery included six 20-foot sections that would have to be constructed like an erector set so the finished product would resemble the Eiffel Tower. In three days, Tom managed to complete three sections after investing twenty four straight hours. With temperatures in the nineties, each day was a grueling experience. Additionally, the process was awkward and mentally challenging.

On Friday, September 13, 2013 a 2-man crew showed up after lunch. In about four hours they managed to complete two whole sections and part of the final section, the rectangular base that will be installed on the concrete pad. This final section is about 10 feet off the ground and will require a ladder or some special techniques to complete.

On Monday, September 16, 2013 the 3-man crew finished the entire tower, and horses refused to feel nervous or threatened by all the erector parts lying prone in the middle of their pasture. It was a good start.

By Tuesday morning, the crane took the first bite out of the earth in anticipation of the concrete pad. Before long, a 19 x19 foot rectangle emerged, about 5 feet deep. No horses got to visit that hole today. Instead two layers of re-bar were fused and welded for extra strength. It is the concrete pad that will be housed here, with the wind turbine tower installed on the concrete.

For three days the crew worked on inserting metal rods inside the rectangle and welding them together to provide extra reinforcement inside the concrete. It was tedious and time-consuming. On Friday, September 20, six concrete trucks arrived to pour concrete which must cure for at least two weeks before the wind turbine could be bracketed to the concrete base. We were told that the weight of the concrete was 250,000 pounds.

During that two week hiatus electric cable was inserted the inside length of the wind turbine and the yellow and white nacelle (the motorized head of the turbine) with the rudder was to be bracketed to the top of the tower. We were delighted to paint our farm logo WIW (for Wind in the Woods and its German translation, Windt Im Wald) on the rudder in black paint.

The concrete was cured sufficiently by Friday, October 4, but a crane of sufficient size was not available until Tuesday, October 8. The crane showed up at 8 A.M. on a very cool morning. It took a lot of discussion and careful thought to determine the correct spot that the crane should latch onto along the turbine. If the crane lifted the turbine in the wrong spot, it could be all over for the turbine tower and all the exact labor that had been required. The project engineer showed up about 9 A.M.

The exacting work of lifting the turbine and the nacelle began shortly thereafter. The pictures show the gradual lifting of the tower from a 0 degree angle to a 90 degree angle and the effort for the men to hold the base of the tower in position while bracketing it to the concrete. It was perpendicular on the base by 9:34 A.M with the actual bracketing completed by about 10:15 A.M.

The crane operator thought the little turbine was pretty nifty and expressed his desire to own one himself. He expressed admiration for the lengthy process (3½) incurred because of initial approval by the township zoning inspector, followed by rejection 3 plus months later, then rejection by the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals, then the 10 month Geauga Common Pleas action, followed by the 14 month process in Eleventh District Court of Appeals, followed by a 5-month return to Geauga Common Pleas Court's affirmation that the wind turbine is exempt from Auburn Township Zoning and a qualified agricultural use of our land.

By the time this final decision had come down, the case was discussed many times in late January-early February at the Ohio Township Association Annual Conference in Columbus. In each case, the presenters expressed disapproval of Auburn Township zoning.

Keep in mind that this turbine produces 10 kw, 1/10 of the energy of one of the two 100 kw wind turbines approved by Auburn Township's Board of Zoning Appeals. The irony and the inconsistency raise several questions about the lack of equal treatment afforded by incumbent Auburn Township officials as well as the blatant disregard/violation of Ohio Revised Code, specifically ORC 519.21(A).

The wind turbine is up, but the story is not over. We will be revisiting this topic as events unfold.





 

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