Meeting held on power plant

LORDSTOWN – The school board president wants a zoning change that would allow the tax influx that comes along with a proposed power plant. Other residents aren’t so sure.

The board of education held an informational meeting Thursday on the possibility of rezoning a 57-acre plot for construction of a $800 million power plant.

Roberta Hiller, board president, has been championing the change after learning about tax income and additional perks that the plant plans to offer, such as a $30,000 per year scholarship for high school students for 15 years. The plant is expected to pay between $1 million and $1.5 million in taxes to the village each year.

“There is a lot of money here for the school. Remember, we had a (5.85-mill) levy in November that did not pass … This would be the same as a 9-mill levy,” she said.

“I talked to the mayor in Fremont, who said the fire chief lives next to the plant there, and he has never heard one bad thing about the facility.”

About 70 people in one of the high school’s lecture halls listened to a duplicate of the presentation given to village council last week by Bill Siderewicz, president of Clean Energy Future, about the 1107 Salt Springs Road location.

“If we don’t get the zoning change, it’s going to be very difficult to do the project, and any of the benefits to the village won’t be there,” Siderewicz said.

The Salt Springs location is the only area in the village where the company would consider building since it is near already-established high voltage power lines, he said.

Along the process of getting the plant in place, he said there were many “exit ramps” that the community could take to back out of the plan if things do not line up well with other steps, such as EPA and engineering analysis results.

John Doddard who lives about a half-mile from the proposed plant site attended the meeting.

“In general, I’m in favor of it. I don’t see much of a negative,” he said.

Others were not as keen as he and Hiller. Jim Gates posed several questions to Siderewicz after the presentation.

“They’re painting a rosy picture. We need those that have questions to be answered,” he said. “There are homes that will be devalued. It’s like taking property with no adequate replacement.”

For example, the plant in Oregon, Ohio, which was referenced as a success story, has yet to be built, he said, while the one in Fremont has not been there for long. He also raised concerns over the amount of water being used by the plant and the large emissions of water vapor impacting the environment.

Gates said he would like to see the plant further researched before a decision is made.

Village Councilwoman Karen Jones said the plant isn’t what bothers her.

“I’m not opposed to the facility, I’m opposed to the zone change. Zoning is here to protect our current citizens, current businesses, current industries,” she said.

There is a large amount of industrial property in the village that could be used before reducing their amount of residential property, she said. She would prefer to “maintain the integrity of the community.”

Siderewicz made the point of saying that the property is not appealing for a residential development because of the power lines. Less than a quarter of a mile down the road from where the plant would be is a substantial neighborhood and small apartment complex.

He also said the property owner who agreed to put in writing that the zoning change would be contingent on the power plant being built.

The possibility of adding the power plant has several other stages to go through, but the first hurdle is making it past the zoning commission, which will be meeting on May 12.