Rural landowner rights being voted away by Ohio’s legislators

By Matt Reese

If you own land in Ohio, your rights are being taken away at the Statehouse by your elected officials with Senate Bill 52. SB 52 has passed the House (on June 28) and the Senate (on June 2).

Here is the language from the bill

The board of county commissioners may adopt a resolution designating all or part of the unincorporated area of a county as a restricted area, prohibiting the construction of any or all of the following: 

      (1) An economically significant wind farm;

      (2) A large wind farm;

      (3) A large solar facility.

This gives county commissioners the authority to take away the rights of landowners to develop wind and solar development without the consent of those landowners. Even worse, they are not required to notify affected landowners directly. Let me reiterate, they are not asking, lawmakers who voted yes on SB 52 are TAKING. 

Just about everyone loses with this one folks. If you own land in Ohio, you lose. If you like wind and solar, you lose. If you like the economic benefits of wind and solar, you lose. If you hate the proposed wind and solar projects already underway, you lose (this is not retroactive). If you are a community in Ohio, you lose too. Those who use Ohio utilities also lose.

I personally have no strong feelings about wind and solar. I fully acknowledge there are real pros and legitimate cons to wind and solar energy development. I do, however, have very strong personal feelings about the rights of Ohio landowners that are being set up to be taken away — first by state legislators who have approved this legislation and, second, by the local politicians who would be enabled to pick and choose which landowners have the chance to make the decision that all landowners in unincorporated areas currently can make.  

Maybe even scarier for some, this bill largely had the support of Republican lawmakers. The primary sponsors of the bill are Rob McColley (R) and Bill Reineke (R).

Whether in favor of wind and solar or preserving your property rights, all Democrat Representatives voted against SB 52. In addition, the following House Republicans voted “no” on the bill and in support of rural Ohio landowner rights: Adam C. Bird (R), Ron Ferguson (R), Diane V. Grendell (R), Mark Johnson (R), Darrell Kick (R), Jennifer Gross (R), J. Kyle Koehler (R), Laura Lanese (R),  Brian Stewart (R), and  Jean Schmidt (R). If your state representative is a Republican not on this very short list, they voted in favor of taking away the property rights of rural Ohio landowners.  

In the Senate, Matt Dolan (R), Frank Hoagland (R), Stephanie Kunze (R), and Bob Peterson (R), along with all of the Democrats voted no on SB 52. All other Senate Republicans voted “yes” to take away your rights as a landowner. These are lawmakers who claim they favor liberty and freedom with one windy breath yet vote quite the opposite with a bit of solar illumination. 

The next stop for SB 52 is Governor Mike DeWine’s desk. I’m curious, rural Ohio landowners, how would you vote? 

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  1. We would absolutely vote no!!

    • Really disappointed in this opinion piece. Farmers not currently bribed by carpet bagging Silicon Valley companies are in favor of this bill.

  2. Imagine you own a farm and you’re trying to build…well…anything you wanted to on YOUR land. Something as simple as a new outbuilding to house your machinery. Or perhaps you decide to operate chicken houses and want to build 4x large and long buildings to support that. Or maybe you just bought a 20 acre piece of property and want to build a house on it.

    In all of these the question is: Should your neighbors get to decide whether you get to do that, or should you have a right to build what you want on your property?

    My childhood home was surrounded by fields. Now those fields are residential development. I don’t want to look at those, and my parents sure didn’t, but who am I to say a struggling farmer can’t sell his land and retire? It’s not my choice what someone else decides to do with their land.

    This is a dangerous and slippery slope for liberty and freedom on OUR land. If you are making $200/acre farming and a solar farm offers you $800/acre in a lease, agrees to plant shrubs and trees to screen it from view, and bring millions in revenue to the county, all with no emissions or pollution or smells then what’s the gripe? Why should my right to do what I want on my land be messed with because of some neighbors who “don’t want to look at it” and then go raise hell with the county to get a “no solar zone” established. What’s next?

    Think about the precedent being set here with this bill. Do you want your neighbors to be able to control what you do or do not do on your land?


    • You don’t know a thing about this issue. All talking points shouted by the angry crowd. Do you know how zoning works? Do you know the difference between industry and agriculture? Can you do absolutely whatever you want to your land right this very second?

      • You obviously don’t know much about land owner rights in most unincorporated Ohio land. And really, you can say with a straight face that today’s commercial farming isn’t considered an industry? Those talking points are actual facts which the legislature didn’t bother to learn.

        • I know all about it. I’ve spent 7 years of my life doing this. How about you? Want me to show you how so unabsolute land owner rights already are? Can you plant poppy or cocoa plants on your ground to enter the drug trade? Can you spread any amount of manure you want? Can you spray however much insecticide you want? If you said no to all those questions I’m right about absolute land owner rights.

          My township has zoning like much of Ohio’s rural townships. Very few are unincorporated. And those that are still fall under county zoning. So who knows more? That’s what I thought.

    • But it’s ok for you to put some huge Turbine up that flickers in your neighbors windows all night. Make noise all night so your neighbor s can’t sleep. Make it so life flight can’t land anywhere near your home if something horrible happens and you need them to save a family members life. Ruin your wells. Are you paying for those to be fixed. How about all the birds they kill a year. Not to mention they are put up for 2 and three states away from you. Not even for your benefit. Yes it is a huge problem for your neighbors.

  3. Small man losing control of their destiny and “Big Brother” taking over. ?

  4. Republicans say they are protecting your rights (not wear a mask, wear a mask, etc.) ….. how about TAKING your right to do as you please with your own land? Sounds hypocritical to me.

  5. Angry about this policy? Tell Governor DeWine to VETO SB 52!

    Call: (614) 466-3555


    Tweet at @MikeDeWine with hashtag #VETO52

    • Have you seen a solar farm? Have you seen what they do to the land, wildlife? Would you want your house completely surrounded by solar farms? Industrial solar farms do not belong in residential areas.

      • Actually I would. And it would be better than more and more houses. You should do some real research of actual facts and not read all the social media nonsense. The land, water, air and wildlife will be much better than property covered by houses or even farming which uses all sorts of chemicals. The solar farms have native grass plantings and will be havens for all sorts or new wildlife. The land will have time to rejuvenate. An added benefit to the local community is all the extra funding that is going to be available to schools, and local govt agencies.
        Get the facts.

    • HAHAHAHA it is laughable that the director of the Ohio Environmental Council comes on a Farmer media outlet to try and Astroturf support. Get a life Spencer we know you hate 85% of what farmers do anyways.

      • Director of the OEC. Unreal. Same org that sends little Randi in there with her stale talking points and lack of true science on how to actually be an environmentalist.

  6. No, windmills are a detriment to birds of all kinds , as well as other flying animals.

    • You all keep blaming your government for the big brother drift. The government are merely puppets in this play. It is the wealthy corporation owners who lust for control of the land.
      Fight for taxpayer funded elections to get big brother corporate power off your back. Bring democracy back.

  7. This article is pure nonsense. I personally asked the author if he would agree to debate his position on landowner rights with me specifically related to wind and solar. He never responded. I even included specific questions to him about landowner rights in the email. No response. This bill is completely justified if you understand what real zoning is. It’s just if you know the difference between agriculture and industry. I’ll debate anyone on here and I’m the most staunch conservative Republican I know.

    • If your such a staunch Republican, then why would you support a socialist bill. This bill gives land owner rights over to the community and government. Look it up, Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
      If people had legitimate reasons for not having a solar farm near them, then they wouldn’t need to have this bill.

      • It’s the exact opposite. I’ve been in this game many years. I’ve been at the statehouse testifying many times on this issue. Ever hear of zoning? Ever hear of environmental and agriculture zoning laws? Your rights as a landowner have never been absolute. Only socialists support this industry and their garbage. True socialism is signing a solar lease that pays you thousands an acre because these companies are tax thieves on all levels. So any landowner that signs with these companies not questioning why they can pay thousands more than you just farming your ground and still turning hundreds of millions in profit are the real socialists. You lose. Bye bye.

  8. Matt is completely off base in this article and quite frankly I think he is smart enough to know that and is being purposefully misleading. The “property rights” that SB52 deals with belong to the wind/solar developer, not to the landowner. The landowner sold those rights to the developer in exchange for lease payments. SB52 deals with the developers rights to build industrial projects and, unlike agricultural use, industrial construction is most always subject to community land use planning and/or zoning. A landowner cannot sell their property rights and then also claim that they are being taken. The landowner agreed to let the developer build a project on his property and the developer has to follow the rules of industrial construction, which sometimes change. Nothing is being taken from the landowner and it is deceitful to say it is. The projects are over hyped by developers to get landowners to agree to lease but the developer’s lease never guaranteed the project would get built. Of course developers would like to skirt around any local zoning restrictions and they did for many years. Now they have to obtain local approval just like any other industrial construction. But the agricultural use zoning exemptions do not transfer to an industrial construction project just because it is built on farmland. The word TAKEN does not apply here in any way shape or form.

    • Jim,
      Landowners in Ohio can currently sell their land or lease it for the purposes of wind and solar development. If, through SB 52, a “restriction” is placed on properties by county commissioners, those landowners no longer have the opportunity to do that. Those affected landowners had no say in the matter ahead of time. How does this not qualify as taking rights from the landowners?
      Most of these areas are not zoned currently. With zoning, home owners associations and other groups imposing restrictions on property rights, the property owners have to approve the measure ahead of time, or sign on to the agreement when they purchase the property. None of those things happened in the case of SB 52.

      • Matt – stop getting your talking points from your buddy bumbling Dale Arnold who has a MASSIVE conflict of interest as he sits on Green Energy Ohio’s Board of Directors as the PRESIDENT. Yet he is crafting policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau – yikes!! Whose interest do you and him have in mind? The everyday farmer/landowner or big corporations and utility scale renewable project developers that fund Green Energy Ohio? The Ohio FB completely ignored the Seneca County FB on this subject and they have lived it for the last 4 years. They get why this is an issue and supported SB52. However, Dale A and people like you continue to lap up Green Energy Ohio’s propaganda. What a shame. Also don’t forget when sPower took Seneca County farmers/landowners to court for not renewing their leases. The leases were expired the farmer/landowners decided not to renew their contracts. Too bad because the wind developer then strong armed them into a 36 month construction clause even though they weren’t in construction nor did they have the OPSB certificate saying they could commence construction. Landowners/Farmers blocked them because of this and the wind developer took them to court and brought a whole host of lawyers from Columbus and Seattle to shut these Farmers/Landowners up. What a joke!!

      • Using your logic any zoning or land use planning would represent a TAKING. That may or may not be true, but the fact is that these kinds of projects have had such big consequences for the communities in which they are built that the industry has only themselves to blame for the public demanding more regulation. The projects are not agricultural but industrial in nature. As such they are in a category of land use which is historically subject to such rules, and with good reason. Industrial areas are not friendly places for people to live and to create a huge one in an agricultural/residential area without the consent of local residents is an even greater TAKING.

  9. Get our guns this is our property .the goverment steals it n charges us for thete shit.
    Our giverment need to be knock iut their theives n steakking from everyone.
    Take awy my rights to what you make me ppay your dead

  10. The author of this article, Matt Reese, presents a very one-sided view of the legislation that it is in all ways bad for property owners. While he does say there are pros and cons he lists none. I have not read the actual legislation so I won’t comment on the details. As a property owner, I understand the desire to do what you want with your property. No one wants to be told they cannot do certain things without approval. On the other hand, we all in some way want our neighbors restricted from doing whatever they want. On a small scale in a neighborhood, if my neighbor decides to raise hogs, that is ultimately going to affect my property value and my quality of life, unless I like hogs. Similarly, if I started a body shop in my garage the noise, dust, and vehicles parked around would likely affect my neighbor. Because of this, we have zoning and its regulations and approvals. Now scale this up to Wind and solar, and even throw in coal power. These affect far more land and far more neighbors than my small example. It should be regulated and the neighbors should have a voice before some large power production facility goes in place.

    • The problem is that everything else is exempted from this bill. And I have yet to see legitimate reasons based on actual facts that these are bad for someone else’s property. Ohio already has one of the strictest rules on these solar farms. Set backs, natural visual screenings, drainage, wildlife, water etc are all studied in great detail and have to be maintained by current law or the lease agreements.

  11. Matt Reese, you are deliberately misleading.
    This bill gives home rule to local counties for something that should have been for years.
    And most of Ohio has zoning in rural areas that restricts property owners for everything BUT this.

    • Beautifully stated. That’s what I’ve said to these people who think you can do whatever you want to your land. And that’s utter nonsense or I would grow illegal drugs on my ground which is far more lucrative than the beans we have out this summer.

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