I am writing in response to the letter to the editor written by Terry Dodd, entitled “Solar critics dismiss owner rights,” published March 9.

I am a property owner that will be directly impacted by the decision of Goodland Township, if they pass Orion Renewable Energy’s (ORE) special land use application. It has been proposed the parcel across the road and adjacent to my home will have an industrial solar array placed upon those properties.

My opposition to this proposed change in land use is not meant to adversely impact any of my friends or neighbors, including the Dodd family. I oppose this change in land use because it will negatively impact more of my neighbors than it will help and can pose significant hazards to my community.

I am a very strong proponent of owner’s right to do whatever they would like with their personal property, yet I am very opposed to this change in land use. While this seems contradictory, there is one fact which is continually glossed over in this matter. ORE is asking Goodland Township for the right to operate an industrial energy production facility in an area currently zoned agriculture/residential. ORE, a California firm, wants to construct a 1,700 acre industrial energy production facility in an area filled with family farms and homes. It is this quasi rezoning of a significant portion of the township that is the foundation of my opposition.

When my family purchased our home, we did so knowing neighbors could grow crops, raise livestock, operate orchards, and erect homes or other structures for agricultural or residential purposes. A rural, agricultural setting is where we wanted to reside. The decision of Goodland Township has the potential to surround my residence with a 1,700 acre industrial energy production facility. This decision can have a significant negative impact on the value of properties in my area.

Although ORE has provided a report from Cohn Reznik telling members of our community our property values will not decline, I must point out there are many conflicting opinions on this matter. Just one contradictory opinion is that of Mary McClinton Clay, MAI. She is an accredited real estate appraiser that has published multiple studies showing these types of industrial energy production facilities have caused significant declines in property values. So if Mrs. McClinton Clay and others are correct and residents of Goodland Township can expect a 1.7% to 30.0% decline in property values of their property, I believe residents should have a voice in this decision. I am not saying they should have a voice in what a property owner does with their property, if it is within the scope of local zoning. But should the township allow a 1,700 acre industrial energy production facility to be constructed within an agriculture/residential area, thus impairing surrounding property values by as much as 30%, you can see all Goodland property owners must have a say in this decision.

I do not wish economic harm on the Dodd family or other families seeking to lease their land. But I also do not want the value of properties in my area to drop by as much as 30%.

I should mention, the installation of this 1,700 acre industrial energy production facility poses certain environmental hazards to residents of Goodland Township and surrounding communities. When these facilities operate in ideal conditions, they are safe. But should an unexpected event happen, they can cause significant and long lasting environmental damage to the region. Facility fires, tornadoes, hail storms, and/or wind storms are all catastrophic events that can compromise the equipment at these facilities. The industrial scale equipment used at these facilities are filled with lead, cadmium, and other toxic and cancer causing substances. Should such event happen in our area, this equipment could leak these chemicals onto the ground and thus into ground water. I don’t know about my neighbors, but my family relies upon well water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Should one of these events happen and frSolaresh water wells in the community become contaminated with toxic chemicals and/or cancer causing substances, who will bear the financial burden so residents can obtain fresh and safe drinking water? The township? ORE? The county? The state? Or will it be left up to the residents that have already taken an economic blow to their property value?

Yes, I stand in firm opposition to any proposed change in land use that would transform my community into an industrial energy production facility. I do not wish to economically harm any family in my community, but also do not want for a handful of my neighbors to gain, through the economic destruction of a greater number of families in my area.

I hope property owners within a three mile radius of the proposed 1,700 acre development educate themselves with the potential adverse side effects ORE’s application might have on their property values and the potential hazards this type of industrial energy production can cause.

Finally, to Orion Renewable Energy. When you boarded the jets in California to come to Goodland Township, how many acres of barren desert, decommission landfills, and brownfields did you fly over before you chose these 1,700 acres of land to develop your industrial energy production facility? Maybe before you go to the next rural community to attempt to develop a solar project, you can consider those unwanted lands. By doing so, you will save those future communities from the horrors of pitting one neighbor against another.

—Michael A. Puzzuoli,
Goodland Township