LIMA — Power transmission lines from a proposed Van Wert County wind farm will not be running along a rail line in southwest Allen County after the Port Authority of Allen County unanimously voted against the proposal Thursday.
The vote came after over an hour and a half of testimony from representatives from Charlottesville, Virginia-based Apex Clean Energy as well as concerned citizens, both from Allen and Van Wert counties.
The original plan was for the company to receive an easement from the port authority to build transmission lines along a rail line stretching through Spencerville as well as Spencer, Amanda and Shawnee townships, each tower measuring between 80 and 110 feet tall and transmitting 450 megawatts of electricity to a substation in southwest Lima. Apex project development director Scott Hawken reiterated the potential benefits of having the lines in Allen County, citing $4.9 million in tax benefits to Shawnee Township, $4.1 million to Amanda Township, $3.1 million to Spencer Township and $550,000 to Spencerville over 30 years.
However, several people voiced reservations about the project for many reasons, including concerns about the electromagnetic field generated by the lines, which they said could be a health risk, as well as concerns about close proximity to private property and its potential negative impact on property values, as well as the potential damage to current infrastructure. Even the promised tax revenue was criticized.
“When you break that ($4.1 million) over 30 years, it amounts to $136,666,” Shawnee Township Trustee Dave Belton said. “Our budget for our township alone annually is about $11 million, so that is a small amount. Also, out of that $136,666, that would be split among the schools, senior citizens, the parks and all the entities that collect a tax. If we would even get 23 percent, it would give us maybe a half-mile of paving, or it would barely buy us a police car.”
Port Authority board member Don Klausing spoke ahead of the vote, voicing his displeasure with the project.
“The business model that the wind energy brings is absolutely wrong, in my opinion,” he said. “What happens is that it creates division.”
Hawken maintained after the vote that Apex made every effort to be transparent and open throughout the process, and he was surprised by the decision.
“We’ll just continue to move forward,” he said. “The project has a lot of benefits that it could bring to both Van Wert and Allen County.”
Board vice chairwoman Maria Sanko noted that this decision now puts the onus on Apex to deal with landowners directly to negotiate for the right to run a line through their property.
“We have tried to do our due diligence to know what was going on and how it would impact everyone,” she said. “My personal deciding factor was that I feel like everyone needs to choose for their own property and how it would affect their own lives and not have us decide for them.”
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.