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Cohoctah Township Planning Commission recommends moratorium on solar and wind projects

After hearing from a group of residents overwhelmingly opposed to a potential solar energy project, the Cohoctah Township Planning Commission voted 6-0 last week to recommend that the township board adopt an amended ordinance with a 12-month moratorium “on the Issuance of Permits, Licenses, or Approvals for, or for Any Construction of, Commercial Wind and Solar Energy Projects.”

The meeting, held last Thursday at the Water’s Edge Camp and Conference Center, featured nearly two hours of public comment from residents who expressed concerns about large-scale solar projects, including negative environmental impacts due to the toxic substances inside the panels, drainage issues such a project could create and the potential to see property values decrease.

One of those who spoke was Clint Beach, who lives nearby in Conway Township. Beach was a guest last month on the Mike & Jon podcast and said at the time the opposition to the project is not about being opposed to solar or wind energy  per se, but the location.

“We all went more, greener energy,” he said. “We want to move away from Big Oil and this and that. We’ve seen what happens with gas prices when foreign entities control what we can do, but I think we have to be ethical. I think we have to be smart of where we put it. There’s brownfields, there’s land that’s not suitable for growing food, there’s areas already zoned for industrial. Every single factory with a flat rooftop should be getting solar. I just disagree with taking land that’s already been set aside as farmland. A lot of these leases are being signed for 30 years.”

But for those who support the project, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in having an informed debate.

Heather Hodge, a longtime Conway Township resident, was also at last week’s meeting and tells GIGO News it was not a positive experience.

“Only two of us spoke in favor of the solar farm project and were booed, interrupted and called names,” said Hodge. “The audience was intimidating and intolerant and they did not want to hear an opinion other than that of their own. I know that there are others who would like to learn more about the solar project and to be involved in the discussion, but they don’t want to be in this type of environment. This type of angry, bullying behavior suppresses others’ voices and it is not democratic at all.”

Hodge, who works in the biotechnology field, said the technical details about such projects can be complex enough that misinformation is allowed to take hold.

One example she cited was the assertion that  solar farms would bring down neighboring property values, something she said her research found to be untrue.

The proposed moratorium’s purpose, according to the resolution, is “to provide sufficient time for the Cohoctah Township Planning Commission and Township Board to fully and thoughtfully explore, analyze, research and make informed decision regarding commercial wind and solar energy projects and repeal sections of the township zoning ordinance pertaining to solar farms and solar energy systems.”

It followed a similar meeting in December in Conway Township that also featured a disruptive audience that booed, heckled, and interrupted those who tried to speak in favor a proposed solar project by Ranger Power on farmland in both Conway and Cohoctah townships.

Conway Township’s moratorium will remain in place until March.

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