Enjoying the view while it lasts

By Matt Reese

We had friends over for dinner the other night just as the first signs of spring were really starting to show up in the landscape around our home. They live in town and, as they got out of their car, they commented several times on how much they “love it out here.”

I agree. I love it “out here” too. The old farmhouse we live in has its various issues (as old farmhouses do), but it is surrounded by gently rolling farm fields with a bit of pasture mixed in and swaths of woodlands. The view from our house is great, especially for sunrises and sunsets. 

The wonderful view I enjoy brings value to my life, my family and my home. I appreciate it. 

Yet, I have never once offered to pay the local farmers who own and manage the land around me for the value of my view. It is those folks who overcome the challenges, incur the costs and take the risks to make my view wonderful. The truth is, my view is worth more than I could really ever afford to pay them, and I’m pretty sure my neighbors wouldn’t take my money even if I offered it.

As it stands, though, there is great risk to the value of my view. I don’t own the land around my couple of acres or control what happens on it. The most common land use in my area is agriculture, and the most common use for former farmland is houses. Sometimes it is just a lot for a house; sometimes it is a large chunk of land for housing developments. That “progress” brings more houses and more non-farm development. I cringe every time I see a bulldozer at work in the neighborhood or a stone truck go by. The new houses are bringing city water and sewer increasingly close to my house (and my view) at an amazing pace. More houses also bring more traffic, more students in schools, more people, more complaints about the agriculturists working so hard to provide the view I love, and less of what I enjoy “out here.” New houses permanently destroy agricultural soils, displace wildlife, drastically alter the local ecosystem, hurt water and air quality, can lead to an economic drain on community infrastructure, and cause countless drainage and flooding headaches.

The sale of farmland for houses is a trend that has gone on for generations in agriculture. Agricultural lands and their great value to the community get buried under driveways, rooftops and basements so more people can live out in the country. It happens all the time.

In terms of my old-farmhouse-in-Fairfield County opinion, if I had a vote on the land use around me, I would pick for it to stay just as it is, without question. If the landowners around me decided the current pleasant mix of cropland, pastures and woodlands was no longer an option for whatever reason, a housing development would be near the bottom of my list of preferences, but high on the list of possibilities for the new land use. 

If the owners of the land around me would ever decide to sell the land, though, I have one of the most equitable systems in the history of the world available at my disposal to address the situation and preserve my view just the way I want it: I could buy the land. 

In reality, though, my farm writer bank account could never compete with farmers or developers for buying the land to preserve my wonderful, rural view and the great value it brings. If it were up to me, I’d keep things just the way they are. The reality is, though, that my opinion concerning what happens on the land around me really does not count unless I buy it. What other way would you have it?

Beyond the steady spread of houses into rural Ohio, there is a huge debate about rural land use in the state right now with regard to solar and wind development. This is a complex issue with legitimate concerns, benefits and arguments on both sides of the issue. Wind and solar are also a rural alternative to the historic trend of more houses or other types of non-ag use. 

When considering all non-ag land uses for the ground around me, I actually think solar would be near or at the top of my list, followed by wind, other non-ag business, warehouses, a few houses on lots, and a housing development. Even lower on my list than housing developments would be things like landfills, waste treatment facilities or an old-fashioned junk yard. All are possibilities and I have no say about any of these land uses if I don’t own the land.

In trying to put myself in the shoes of the very frustrated folks facing wind and solar development in their communities, I can absolutely sympathize. I certainly do not know what the future holds for wind and solar in Ohio. There will surely be some successful situations and some problems, good neighbors and bad, and maybe some of both in the same situation. 

I do know, for now, I will appreciate the beautiful agricultural view from my old farmhouse as the wonders of spring emerge. I will also appreciate, support and thank those who are working so hard to provide it to my family and the rest of the community, free of charge.  

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  1. I am glad you acknowledge that these massive industrial wind and solar projects are becoming quite the contentious issue in Ohio. It is only going to continue to get exacerbated because at the moment the Ohio PJM Grid Queue has over 150 industrial solar projects on it. This means what we have seen to this point pales in comparison to what is on the way. For some Ohio communities and areas these projects make sense and development should be encouraged. However, in the areas where they don’t fit the local land use plans, local zoning, etc.. these townships should have far greater power in the siting of these massive industrial projects. Today’s current process with the Ohio Power Siting Board is not only deficient but it is downright worthless when it comes to substantive local control. #HB118 & #SB52 both are legislation that fixes this process and gives back power to Ohioans who deserve a legitimate seat at the table.

  2. Should you have a say if those land uses devalue YOUR capital equity of your home? Anyone that supports industrial wind or solar need to dig deeper into the real truth of the issue. These generators pollute the Earth hundreds of times more per unit energy and are propped up at thousands of times more per unit energy by our tax dollars. So these companies get to steal my tax money AND devalue my largest single investment at the same time in my home? I would never sell out to these people. They are professional con artists and outright liars. My entire Mom’s side of the family lives in Fairfield County. Some are large landowning farmers. They would never sell out either, because they believe in conservatism. True conservatism.

  3. Well thank you! I am one of those landowners providing that beautiful view to the small parcel homeowners who border me. Most of my other neighboring farmers and I appreciate the fact that people such as yourself liked our area enough to purchase land from us and build your dreams here next to us. Know that we respect your opinion on what the future of our neighborhood should be and embrace the idea of each of you having an equal vote on such decisions. We support SB52 and HB118 which would do that. Let’s all be thankful for the nice people in our community!

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