The room erupted into cheers as Kay Weisenauer read the results to members of Crawford Neighbors United who had gathered at the Crawford County Courthouse on Tuesday night: A referendum vote had upheld a 10-year ban on industrial wind development in Crawford County.
In final, unofficial results, Issue 4 had 10,964 "Yes" votes, or 74.54%, and 3.744 "No" votes, or 25.46%, according to the Crawford County Board of Elections.
The "Yes" vote on Issue 4 supports the 10-year ban on industrial wind development passed by Crawford County commissioners in May. A "No" vote would have overturned the ban, allowing Apex Clean Energy to move forward with development of its planned 300-megawatt industrial wind farm, Honey Creek Wind, in the northern half of the county.
On May 5, Crawford County commissioners passed a resolution blocking wind farm development in all unincorporated areas of the county for 10 years, effectively barring construction of Honey Creek Wind. But under the terms of Senate Bill 52, which became law last year, wind farm supporters were able to submit petitions forcing the referendum vote on the issue, which could have overturned the commissioners' action.
Crawford is the first county in the state where Senate Bill 52 has been used to put such a referendum to the ballot.
Brian O'Shea, director of public engagement for Apex, said the company will evaluate its next steps in Crawford County.
Ohio election 2022: Is industrial wind development right for Crawford County? Voters will decide on Nov. 8
"We are disappointed in the result of today’s vote, which memorializes a dangerous and precedent-setting expansion of government authority over local property rights," he said in a text message. "This result restricts and seizes the individual land rights of more than 500 Crawford County farmers and landowners, who have now lost the ability to decide what they want to do with their own property."
Crawford Anti-Wind/Crawford Neighbors United issued a formal statement, thanking supporters, state legislators and others.
"We are ecstatic with this election outcome and it is with gratitude to the citizens of Crawford County that they voted to uphold the commissioners' resolution to place a 10-year restriction on large wind farms in unincorporated areas of Crawford County," the statement read. It also acknowledged that the county will need to heal "after battling this divisive issue. We are committed to helping to move Crawford County forward."
Crawford Anti-Wind members gathered at courthouse
Members of the anti-wind group gathered in the municipal courtroom at the courthouse on Tuesday to wait for results. A few arrived early in the evening, and more filtered in as the evening progressed.
In initial results — early and absentee ballots — the "Yes" votes took a strong lead, with roughly 71% voting in favor of the ban. A second round of results, with 21 precincts counted, had almost 75% of voters favoring the measure.
"It's exhilarating," Paula Ihler said as she waited for final numbers. "You just didn't know. It's been a long journey, two and a half years. Now it just comes down to tonight."
The last few days before the election, her efforts to get the anti-wind group's message out had been "like a full-time job," she said. "With events and appearances and phone calls and emails."
She praised the many volunteers who shared that work. "We're just grateful the county came together as neighbors united," Ihler said.
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By 9:30 p.m., roughly a dozen members of the anti-wind group were chatting cheerfully.
Victory "a relief" for Crawford Anti-Wind members
Weisenauer, another of the group's most active members, was near the front of the room when a board of elections worker brought printouts of the final, unofficial results to the courtroom.
Other members clustered around her as she hunted for the Issue 4 result and read it to the crowd. Applause and cheers erupted. Members embraced. Weisenauer looked toward the ceiling and pointed heavenward.
The victory was "a relief," she said.
"Just thanking the good Lord," Weisenauer said. "We are keeping our county intact, saving the agriculture. I feel great."
More members poured into the courtroom, where they cheered "hip-hip-hooray!" and posed for group photographs.
While Crawford Anti-Wind officially organized early this year, several of the members have been fighting industrial wind development much longer.
For Kimberly Groth, the victory comes after more than four years of effort. The Buckeye Central graduate and her husband live just north of Crawford County, in Seneca County. They have battled wind projects in both counties.
"I don't know yet," Groth said when asked how she felt. It was a relief, she added.
"We knew the community was supportive; you could just sense it when you went door-to-door, when you went to an event," she said. "But you didn't want to be too optimistic."
Members also were concerned the ballot language would confuse people, Groth said.
Wind farm ballot language in Ohio midterm election 2022
The ballot language for the issue was: "To approve the designation of the unincorporated portions of Crawford County as a restricted area prohibiting large or economically significant wind farms as defined by the Ohio Revised Code as passed by the Board of Commissioners of Crawford County in Resolution 2022-200. Shall the resolution enacting the designation prohibiting large or economically significant wind farms be approved?"
It will be interesting to see how news of the vote plays out "in the broader media," Groth said.
"I think this is going to have repercussions beyond Crawford County," she said.
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