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Residents appeal Denison solar energy project

Residents appeal Denison solar energy project

In the nearly two years since Denison University announced its plan to install about 5,000 solar panels on its Biological Reserve, not a single ray of sunlight has been harnessed into electricity on the 350 acres of woods and wildlife.

Still, there’s plenty of energy surrounding the project, from both supporters and opponents, as the matter continues to work its way through local governing boards and, most recently, through the courts.

The case heads next to the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals, after a group opposed to the project filed an appeal late last week.

A group of residents on Welsh Hills Road, which overlooks the Biological Reserve, has argued that the project will decrease property values and that the village has disregarded zoning legislation.

After the village council upheld the zoning board’s initial approval for the project, the residents filed an appeal with Licking County Common Pleas Court. Judge Thomas Marcelain sent the matter back to council, ruling that the village hadn’t determined whether the project constituted commercial use, which would have required a rezoning request. Council voted in January that the solar array did not constitute commercial use, and last month, Marcelain upheld council’s decision allowing the solar project.

Residents filed an appeal of that decision on Friday in Licking County, and requested a stay in the case. Marcelain granted that stay this week, so the solar project remains on hold.

Residents have said the project doesn’t meet all the requirements for the conditional use permit it was granted by the village. They’ve also argued that the solar panel project serves a commercial use because American Electric Power will lease the land and provide the panels, and then sell the solar-generated electricity back to Denison.

“They aren’t against solar (energy),” said Buck Mallory, the attorney representing the residents. “But they do feel like the zoning does not permit the use that’s being proposed.”

There are other sites within the village with different zoning that would be a better choice for the project, Mallory said.

Denison Sustainability Coordinator Jeremy King said the university looked at a number of sites when they first proposed the project, but many of the other viable ones were half the size of the current proposal.

King said he feels many of the residents concerns’ have been addressed. The fence surrounding the array would be at least 250 feet away from residents’ property lines, he said, and the university has promised to put up a “plant screen”— a buffer of shrubs and evergreen trees — between the panels and the nearby homes.

Granville Law Director Michael King said in an email that he believes Marcelain’s decision to be upheld.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

By Jennifer Smola The Columbus Dispatch  •  Wednesday August 17, 2016 5:05 PM

LINK: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/08/17/Denison-solar-energy-appeal.html

Swasey Chapel

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From Denison website:

Posted Date
Monday, January 5, 2015

Denison solar array project seeks permit

Denison University is seeking a village permit for a solar array that will provide 2 megawatts of energy to the college.

Denison University is seeking a conditional use permit to install solar array panels on approximately 10 acres in the college’s Biological Reserve just east of Ohio 161 on the village’s north end.

The proposal for the photovoltaic energy facility has been slightly altered from one that was presented in October to neighbors of the property, a Denison spokesperson said Monday. While in the same general area, the location has been shifted to address some of the neighbor concerns and some of the site conditions, said Ginny Sharkey, DU media relations manager.

In addition, the university has reconfigured the array “to minimize any disruption of the view from the neighbors’ backyards,” said Sharkey, speaking for Denison Vice President of Finance and Management Seth Patton. “In fact, the closest property line to the array is more than 150 feet away, while most properties are in excess of 200 feet away from the array.”

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