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Miami Township

Township Trustees Marilan Moir, Don Hollister and Chris Mucher held their first meeting of the year on Wednesday, Jan. 3. (Video still)

Miami Township Trustees discuss new-year business, solar

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The Miami Township Board of Trustees held its first regular meeting of the year Wednesday, Jan. 3. Most of the meeting was focused on settling first-of-year business.

First on the docket was the swearing-in of Trustee Chris Mucher, who was elected for an eighth term last November.

Also elected in November was Jeanna GunderKline, who will serve as fiscal officer; GunderKline’s term begins in April. Current Fiscal Officer Margaret Silliman suggested that GunderKline either be paid a stipend for training before she’s sworn in, or that the Township employ a “visiting clerk” to complete training after her term begins. Mucher suggested that GunderKline be hired in the short-term by Silliman as an assistant to the fiscal officer in order to complete training.

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Several other points of order were approved by the board:

• Trustee Don Hollister was elected chair of the board for 2024.

• Trustee and previous chair Marilan Moir was elected vice-chair of the board for 2024.

• Zoning fees for 2024 were approved: $25 for general, agritourism and roadside work permits; and $100 for Board of Zoning Appeals applications.

• Dennis Powell was appointed as continuing interim fire chief.

• Dan Gochenour and Brandon Morris were approved as full-time road department employees; Morris’ hourly pay was increased by $1 per hour.

• Denise Swinger was appointed as interim zoning inspector, retroactive to Dec. 2023.

• Fred Layh and Richard Silliman were appointed to the Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals, respectively, for five-year terms.

Solar discussion continues

During the “new business” portion of the meeting, Nick Bundren of the Ohio Land and Liberty Coalition — a state-based, nonprofit solar and wind energy advocacy group sponsored by the Conservative Energy Network — briefly spoke with trustees, asking questions about the Township’s support for or opposition to utility-scale solar projects.

“The goal of our organization is to support solar and wind development on the basis that property rights need to be upheld and protected across the state of Ohio,” Bundren said.

He went on to ask if there has been any interest in utility-scale solar or wind in the township; whether there has been any organized opposition to such interests and on what scale; and whether the trustees have received requests from residents to oppose utility-scale solar projects.

Trustees answered in the affirmative to all Bundren’s questions, briefly citing the years-long public Kingwood Solar project process. After hearing the answers, Bundren thanked the trustees and left.

Later in the meeting, trustees approved a motion to withdraw their names from a portion of a cross-appeal they had filed with the Ohio Supreme Court with regard to Kingwood Solar. The proposed 175-megawatt Kingwood Solar project was denied by the Ohio Power Siting Board, or OPSB, in late 2022, citing public opposition as the reason for the denial.

Last September, Vesper Energy — the company behind the proposed utility-scale Kingwood Solar project — submitted an appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court after the OPSB denied a rehearing request for the project. That appeal was denied, but Vesper Energy submitted a second appeal later that month.

The Miami Township Board of Trustees — along with the trustees of Cedarville and Xenia Townships and members of the ad-hoc group Citizens for Greene Acres — filed a cross-appeal in early November 2023, agreeing with the initial denial of Kingwood. However, the cross-appeal made the case that the OPSB should not have denied the rehearing and that it had “acted unlawfully and unreasonably” by not identifying other reasons for denying Kingwood, including the project’s “incompatibility with the objectives of local land use planning codes” and “incapacitation of 1,025 acres of good farmland for food production for 35 years.”

The trustees said they were advised by their legal counsel, Lee Slone, to withdraw their names from the cross-appeal with regard to these additional reasons, and only to cite the original reason given for Kingwood’s denial — public opposition — in a cross-appeal; the counsel’s reasoning for the advice was not publicly stated at the meeting.

“We’ll continue to be in support for an appeal to the Supreme Court based on our united opposition,” Hollister said.

The Jan. 3 meeting may be viewed in full on the Yellow Springs Community Access YouTube channel.

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