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Wind turbines and private property rights among top concerns for area residents

Stacey Hartley • Jun 12, 2019 at 2:00 PM

NEW LONDON — Wind turbines and private property rights were among the top concerns voiced by area residents at a Republican town hall meeting Monday.

Held by the Huron County Republican Party at the New London Public Library, the meeting featured state representatives Nathan Manning and Dick Stein as panelists.

The first issue raised was with wind farm protections included in House Bill No. 6.

“I can spend all day and the whole hour talking about House Bill 6,” Stein said. “I don’t want to do that because I know many of you have different topics of discussion you’re interested in asking us about today.”

But town hall attendees didn’t leave it at just that, as Stein, the representative for the 55th district, and Manning of the 57th discovered after opening the floor for questions.

“I’m here because of amendment No. 28 —  getting money out of politics — and to oppose (the) Citizens United (organization). We would appreciate if you would help us support this,” Daisie Reish said.

Area resident Patrick Fritz said he had “a problem with House Bill 6.” He added that people who are upset about such issues as wind turbines near their homes — and asked to band together — creates “a bunch of vigilantes.

Stein said landowners have the right to have turbines on their on their properties, but noted “the issue here, primarily, is setbacks.” According to the American Wind Energy Association, a setback is “the minimum distance a turbine can be built from residential structures, property lines, roads, environmentally or historically sensitive areas, and other locations” and relates to the turbine height. Federal, state and local governments can establish the setbacks based on project specifications.

“What about the setbacks for Davis Besse (power plant)?” Fritz said, challenging Stein. “Do you know how much hazardous waste is in the ground up there at Davis Besse?”

Stein, who has been to Davis Besse, when pressed by Fritz, said he didn’t know how much there is.

Glen Boatman, of Vermilion, raised the issue of a bill involving property lines near burial and unmarked grave sites. 

“I just want to make people aware of this. ... It’s an attack on our private property rights,” he said.

Huron County resident George Dimuth agreed with Boatman, saying “I am against the unmarked grave legislation.” Manning told him he understood his perspective, adding he is “all about local control.” 

Stein said unmarked grave legislation doesn’t have a bill number and it’s generally “not on the radar in any way, shape, or form as having any legs to go anywhere” in the House of Representatives.

Manning encouraged residents to reach out to their area representatives and commended them for “getting ahead of it.”

New London Mayor John Martin asked about background checks and safety courses for firearm purchases.

“Don’t you dare take our guns away,” he said.

Manning responded “it’s not going away anytime soon.”

Jim Dowdell, of Grafton Township, drew attention to the increase in “Red Flag Laws.” He said they are pushed by people “jumping on the bandwagon to erode people’s Second Amendment rights” after deadly gun violence attacks. Dowdell attributed the negative attention to “upset mothers,” before saying finally “tampering with my Second Amendment is not a good idea.”

The panel fielded additional questions regarding school funding, street signage, gas taxes and medical marijuana and several more on House Bill 6. One of the final questions came from Reish, who inquired if representatives vote with their constituents or their personal beliefs. 

“You try to listen to your district as much as possible. Many times I’ve voted against my party, but with my district,” said Manning, who answered first.

“While I will definitely listen to my constituents — especially if you take the time to come out to Columbus to speak with us — I will usually defer to other representatives as the experts on those matters,” Stein added.

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