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Community members fighting proposed solar project

To the editor:

We in Franklin Township are, involuntarily, in the fight for our livelihood and way of life.

A massive industrial-sized solar project is threatening to engulf 2,264 acres of our beautiful township. Three non-resident landowners (and one landowner with no panels planned near their residence) have signed 35-year leases with a Canadian company to occupy farmland with solar panels. These panels will cover about 900 football fields worth of our hilly landscape.

The project will be in the vicinity of three churches, two cemeteries, and encompass the villages of Milport and Summitville. For obvious reasons, township residents, church members, neighboring farmers and businesses in the area are opposed to this project. We have expressed our opposition by signing petitions, putting NO SOLAR PROJECT yard signs out, and becoming members of a concerned citizens group called FAKS (Franklin Against Kensington Solar). You can learn more about the project on the website: theFAKS.org.

But today I wish to address the one reoccurring concern about our opposition that we have heard, and that we can also see the logic when it is first mentioned. The concern is: “Don’t tell landowners what they can and cannot do with their property.” In fact, Farm Bureau stands strong on this stance. And we agree with this statement when intruders wish to damage or use our land for their own needs.

Examples of this might be the installation of pipelines and new bike trails through the easiest path, farmland. Often developers do not want to compensate appropriately for the landowners’ losses, keeping in mind, sometimes, things are priceless or their value is not understood.

However, that is not what is happening here. We have a huge industrialized solar project wishing to use farmland to produce a very limited amount of electricity right next door to residents and neighboring farmland. The construction process will take a year to install 37 miles of access roads within the project (3,000 truckloads of gravel), 42,801 steel I-beam posts pounded in to mount over 353,684 panels, and 39 miles of prison-like fence for around the panels, among so many other foreign materials. Then this unsightliness will be here for 35 to 40 years.

Recently, a Salem resident commented: “Don’t tell your neighbors what to do.” Really?! Have you looked at your city zoning map? You have 13 classifications of what people can and cannot do with their property, restricting the location of everything from single-family residential to heavy industrial. And that’s not all. There are lengthy restriction resolutions like “No person shall harbor or keep any bees … which cause annoyance to other persons or property damage”; “No person shall harbor or keep in or upon a residential property more than five dogs or five cats or a combination thereof, not to exceed five at any one time”; or “No person shall keep any swine, sheep or goats in the City. Horses, cattle, and chickens may not be kept within 150 feet of any residence” (Salem Codes 505.13-505.15)

We are not re-inventing the wheel here in Franklin Township, Columbiana County. Cities across the country tell people to keep agriculture out of the city and tell industrial companies where they can go. We are only asking to keep the solar industry away from our residences and agricultural land. There is a place for everything. Solar projects should go where the sun shines like western states or on brown fields like reclaimed coal fields, or how about city parking lots or roofs.

We only have 42% of possible daylight hours with sunny or partly sunny conditions here in Northeastern Ohio. Also, many of our residences and much of our farmland sits downhill from these proposed panels that will be cleaned and de-iced with chemicals that will flow to our fields and water supply that feeds our families and livestock.

So you say: “Why didn’t you have zoning in place to stop such an invasion?” Well, who would have thought such a thing could happen here; it doesn’t make sense! So we will stop this atrocious project and then, believe me, we will enact the provisions in Senate Bill 52 that permits county commissioners to restrict an area from allowing utility size projects such as this in our beautiful township.

Until then, we will use the powers granted to us, at the present, from the PUCO through the Ohio Power Siting Board to express our opposition through public comments and voicing our opinion at the upcoming public hearing. We will request that the intent of the SB 52 be recognized, requiring the OPSB to respect the overwhelming opposition.

Diane Brown,

Co-Chair of Franklin Against Kensington Solar (FAKS-PAC),

Summitville

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