By Meladi Brewer
GREENVILLE — The Darke County Board of Commissioners met Monday to discuss zoning issues and announce a solar energy project open house. Commissioners Matt Aultman and Larry Holmes were present.
The Greenville Township trustees attended the meeting on Monday to discuss zoning issues in Greenville Township.
“We passed a form for zoning,” Jeremy Edgar said. “It is a declaration of intent, so anyone in the Greenville township who wants to build has to have this form filled out, signed, and notarized.”
Edgar explained the form is designed to give a “little teeth into the ag exemption.”
“We are not trying to stop people from building buildings and using the ag exemption, but we are trying to make sure they are legitimate ag exemptions,” Edgar said.
The Greenville Township trustees are trying to ensure the projects utilizing the agriculture exemption are real agricultural builds not schemes stating they are going to be used for agriculture and then they aren’t in order to bypass the proper procedures.
“We don’t want any more of this ‘Oh it’s going to be ag’ and then we turn around and do something else with it,” Edgar said.
The board would like the township to know they have to go to the Board of Trustees to get a zoning permit before they can start a project — otherwise documents containing the word zoning are not the proper legal permits needed to begin the project. Also, an ag-related building project will need the ag form from the trustees to ensure the ag exemption is appropriate for the build being sought out.
Concluding the discussion between the Greenville Township Trustees and Commissioners, various citizens declared their concerns regarding the potential solar farms. A major concern with this group of citizens is the commissioners’ role in the project.
“The public doesn’t see a lot of the inner workings because it is a lot of extra time researching things,” Aultman said.
“I hope you commissioners are diving deep in this process and becoming as educated as we are,” citizen Fran Chrisman said.
“We are gathering information at this point trying to find out things that come forward, concerns from all the folks that live in the area, and we have been talking with the public utilities commission on a regular basis,” Aultman said. “We are also asking Apex where they currently are, so we know the schedule they are looking at to put their application in, and have talked to the other counties, along with other things.”
The commissioners are unable to formally discuss the issue because all parties are gathering information at this time and a formal application has yet to be submitted. The commissioners also do not have the opportunity to act at this time due to the project being a state project, not a county project.
“The state takes power away from the commissioners. Senate Bill 52 came into play, and it allows zoning power in the future, but there is zero say outside of Senate Bill 52,” Aultman said.
Tyler Ferhman, with Apex Clean Energy, made a public statement at the meeting addressing the solar concerns. Apex will be holding an open house meeting on Thursday, Dec. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. at J&J Enterprises to answer questions, explain the process, talk about what the commissioners can and cannot due, state what the land owners can and cannot due, as well as bring information to the table that may help to community better understand the project.
The Darke County Board of Commissioners meets every Monday and Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at their office located at 520 S. Broadway Street in Greenville. To contact the office, call 937-547-7370.
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].