LIMA — Supporters, detractors and experts all gathered at the UNOH Event Center on Thursday night for a public forum on the Birch Solar I Project that is expected to come to Allen and Auglaize counties. Project producer LightSourceBP hosted the event, meant to answer questions and hear concerns that have arisen with the project.
It was the third public information meeting that LightSourceBP has hosted, but Thursday’s meeting provided the first opportunity for the community members to ask their questions in person. Since the last meeting in November of 2020, serious progress has been made on the development of the project.
“I think on the difference with today versus the other public information meetings is we do have a little bit of a defined area, like a really shrunk layout,” said LightSourceBP Director of Development Shanelle Montana. “I don’t want to say exactly, but we can at least pinpoint general areas where the panels are going to be.”
With the project moving along in the hearing process, Montana said that LightSourceBP can continue to make its presence known through community partnerships, like helping sponsor the Allen County Fair, but some at the meeting questioned the timing of the forum itself, which happened at the same time as Shawnee High School’s football opener against LCC. Much of the proposed project is located within Shawnee Township.
“If they’re so community-minded, why did they schedule it on the Shawnee-LCC football game night?” said Jim Thompson, who is a key organizer in the ‘Against Birch Solar’ movement. “And then we have two or three other schools that have open houses tonight, I mean, those are public schedules, public calendars that could have been easily looked at.”
Those who were in attendance had a chance to look at the engineering and environmental aspects of the project, and experts hoped that they were able to quell concerns surrounding the project. One of the major questions surrounding the project is how it might impact drainage in the area.
“One of the ways that we’re discussing, whether it be the drainage question or other concerns is really just talking the community through the process that we have,” said pre-construction senior manager Joshua Larimer. “Specific to the drainage, we’re explaining how we go about a hydrology or hydraulic study, understanding the site drainage conditions at this moment, and then when we’re constructing a project, our intention and our plan and our design efforts are intended to make sure that when we leave, the drainage is equal to or better than when we came to the site.”
It’s unclear how many people left the forum with changed feelings about the project, but Thompson said that it was important for his group to be in attendance for an opportunity to get the answers they were looking for about the project.
“Yeah, they’re not happy, but they wanted to come out and get things cleared up, ask questions, and see what may or may not have changed,” he said. “I’m proud of our group.”
With the Birch Solar Project still going through the hearing process, the next major step will be a public hearing before the Ohio Power Siting Board in November.
Reach Trevor Hubert at 567-242-0398