Solar farm discussion dominates council meeting
Representatives of National Grid Renewables speak to Greenfield council members during the council's regular meeting on Tuesday. (Photo by Angela Shepherd)
A screenshot of Mike Meyers from Facebook Live during Greenfield's council meeting Tuesday is shown. He spoke to council members as an opponent of the proposed solar farms.
By Angela Shepherd
Village of Greenfield
There are two solar farms planned to come to the Greenfield area, one in Ross County and one in Fayette County, and both are a matter of concern for village officials who are wondering about the safety of Greenfield’s water supply, natural beauty, and the town’s ability to grow in the future.
Representatives of Natural Grid Renewables came to Greenfield’s council meeting Tuesday to answer questions, and they did address council questions and concerns for nearly two hours.
Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin’s biggest concerns are protecting Greenfield’s water supply and protecting the village’s ability to expand, which can’t be done if Greenfield is “boxed in” by solar farms.
Another massive concern raised was the loss of natural beauty. While the solar farms are to be on farmland, these structures will be plentiful and hard to miss and something that could blight what Greenfield is always striving to do, which is attract people to come and enjoy the beautiful outdoors that surround the village.
A Scenic River designation from the state for Paint Creek has been in the works for some time, and is nearly completed. That designation is coming. Also, one of the main tenets of Greenfield’s economic development plan is that of destination tourism, which is reliant on the recreational value of Paint Creek and the natural beauty that is plentiful in the area.
How these solar farms impact that was a big question that no one seems to know the answer to for sure.
While the solar company representatives were adamant that their company’s intention was to be a “good neighbor” and make their farms as beneficial and as lush as possible -- this is done by planting native plants that thrive in indirect sunlight, planting vegetation screens, and using fencing that is more like what can be seen surrounding a pasture instead of chain link fencing seen around farms belonging to other companies -- scepticism was voiced both from council and Mike Meyers, a local real estate agent and appraiser who spoke near the end of the meeting about how other projects don’t live up to what was promised. Meyers equated all of it to “a cement cake covered with icing.”
According to the solar company representatives, there will be financial benefits to local organizations, like Paint Creek Fire/EMS and other local organizations, but Greenfield Exempted Village School District, they said, would receive the largest amount of money each year.
Wilkin noted that, according to the Ohio Revised Code, municipalities have the right to look into projects a mile and a half beyond its borders, but no one from National Grid Renewables had approached the village. Council members also voiced this concern.
Apologies were made that the representatives had not come to council sooner, but they spoke about how they have reached out to the community, particularly residents closest to the proposed farms. They also spoke at a Madison Township meeting earlier in the week.
Council member Kyle Barr said he was not against the solar farms, and council member Brenda Losey was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, but all other council members voiced their concern for the potential negative impact on Greenfield.
For more information about the company, you can go to nationalgridrenewables.com.
Schluep, Brewer recognized by council
In other business, Tom Schluep was recognized with July’s Citizen-of-the-Month Award.
Schleup worked in Greenfield in the 1970s with his dad, Jack, at the Greenfield Daily Times. Schluep said when he worked in the village, he found it to be “really lovely,” so, in 2013, Schleup and his partner, Greenfield native Dan McCray, moved back to the village. Schleup has been an active member of Grow Greater Greenfield for 12 years, and every year takes care of the flowers downtown through the summer and the city building’s Christmas window boxes.
The Employee-of-the-Month Award was given to Jon Brewer who has been with the village for 22 years. Brewer began his career with the village working in the cemetery. His vast amount of knowledge there has helped, and continues to help, the village in its quest to make sure all the grave sites are identified and mapped properly. The village is grateful to Brewer for all his years of service and dedication.
25 downtown applications received
The Downtown Facade Improvement Program application deadline was a couple weeks ago, and Wilkin said there were 25 applications. The total, he said, came to more than a million dollars.
The plan has been to use the ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act) funds for the program. Greenfield will receive $477,000 from the state as its share, but the amount initially slated to go to Greenfield was supposed to be nearly twice that amount until the state decided to also give money to townships.
Directions on how the money can be spent are very specific, Wilkin said previously, and Madison Township would be limited on being able to spend the money. On Tuesday, Wilkin said the township has one project that will qualify for the use of the funds. The township is set to receive $214,000. The hope is that the township will partner with the village so that the money they are unable to spend may be used downtown.
Wilkin is also seeking a partnership with the Highland County Commissioners for use of some county ARPA funds for the program.
“There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm to renovate downtown,” Wilkin said, and he will work to make sure the funding is available to get it done.
Hiring event rescheduled
In other business, the much-anticipated hiring event scheduled for July 1 had to be canceled due to rain, but it has been rescheduled for July 23.
From 9 a.m. to noon on July 23, local businesses will be set up in the city building courtyard. Three downtown businesses -- Corner Pharmacy, Hometown Diner, and Catch 22 -- will be conducting interviews in their businesses.
“We are doing our best to support our local businesses who need employees,” Wilkin said previously. “We want to help those who are needing a job see what is available right here.”
If people need transportation, steel-toed shoes, or specific tools or certifications, they can visit the Highland County Economic Development table during the hiring event and possibly get that help through Workforce READi, a grant program through GRIT (Growing Rural Independence Together). These services are also available to those who are already employed and are in need of assistance to stay employed.
For more information regarding the Workforce READi program, contact Highland County Economic Development Director Julie Bolender by calling 937-661-3010 or 937-763-3073, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barr said FRS Transportation now has a Greenfield route. Informational pamphlets are available at the library.
Council members voted to fill several expired seats on the Downtown Design Review Board. Those approved to fill those seats are Ashley Karnes, Rachel Fraley, Faitha Shelton, Susan Thompson, and Barb Barton.
July 23 - hiring event downtown from 9 a.m. to noon
July 24 - MLB Run, Pitch, and Hit event at Mitchell Park beginning at 10 a.m. Go to the Mitchell Park Youth Sports League Facebook page for the event and registration information. Those wanting to participate must pre-register before the event.
July 31 - public auction of properties at 437 McClain Ave. and 510 McKell Ave. The properties were previously forfeited to the court in drug cases. Money from the sales will go to the police department and the county’s drug task force to help them continue to pursue drug-related crimes.
August 14 - Wiffle ball tournament at Mitchell Park beginning at 10 a.m. For more information go to the Mitchell Park Youth Sports League Facebook page.
The Greenfield Village Council meets in regular session the first and third Tuesday of each month in the council chambers on the third floor of the city building at 7:30 p.m. Meetings are also streamed live on Facebook. Go to the Village of Greenfield, Ohio Facebook page and greenfieldohio.net for news and information.
Tom Schluep was recognized as July's citizen-of-the-month. Pictured during Tuesday's council meeting are (l-r) council members Phil Clyburn, Eric Borsini, and Kyle Barr, Schluep, council member Amie Ernst, and city manager Todd Wilkin. (Photo by Angela Shepherd)