Bath Twp. will appeal judge’s decision on biodigester operation

Residents plan to protest judge’s decision this week

Bath Twp. plans to appeal a ruling by a Greene County judge on a local biodigester operation being a public utility, exempt from township zoning regulations.

The Bath Twp. Board of Zoning Appeals ruled in March 2020 that the bio-energy company Renergy, which operates Dovetail, an anaerobic biodigester facility at 1156 Herr Road in Bath Twp. outside Fairborn, is not an agricultural zoning, but an industrial zoning.

The company appealed the BZA ruling and Greene County Common Pleas Judge Michael Buckwalter last Thursday sided with Renergy. Bath Twp. will appeal that ruling.

Bath Twp. administrator Pete Bales said trustees Kassie Lester and Steve Ross voted in a special meeting on Monday to appeal Buckwalter’s decision. The township’s attorney will be filing the appeal soon, he said.

Bath Twp. Trustee Tom Pitstick, whose farm the biodigester operates on, was not at the special meeting.

The legal fight over the facility began in 2019 when an outside prosecutor was brought in to advise the township. Renergy and Pitstick were sent a letter from that prosecutor saying the operation was in violation of both the Ohio Revised Code and Bath Twp. zoning code. The letter stated that Dovetail had 30 days to correct the violation. “Failure to correct this violation will result in legal action,” the prosecutor stated in the letter.

The bio-energy company and Pitstick appealed that order and continued to operate.

Bath Twp. trustees will make an official statement at the township meeting on at 7 p.m. Wednesday night. A group of about 500 citizens concerned about the biodigester in Bath Twp. plan to hold a protest before the township meeting at 6 p.m. The protest will be at the Bath Twp. building located at 1006 Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road in Fairborn.

The group of citizens organizing the protest said in a media release they are now fighting for all of Ohio. The group hopes to educate governments and citizens in Ohio about the ramification of this ruling and a similar ruling on a facility in Morrow County.

“If this ruling is allowed to stand then every township, city, municipality and county will be overrun by companies claiming they are a public utility, and the local governments will have absolutely no say in what comes into their community,” the release said. “This has become a much larger issue than just our local concerns of zoning regulations, health and safety issues, environmental issues, economic impacts, and lack of transparency.”

Some residents have protested the smell coming from the anaerobic digester since the facility was built in 2014.

Anaerobic digesters are enclosed entities in which agricultural or food waste is stored and produce liquids and gases as the waste decomposes.

Over the years, numerous residents have complained to the Ohio EPA about the smell and the Ohio EPA has visited the Dovetail site to check on the smell. Fairborn and Bath Twp. residents said they have reported the smell from the facility on the Smell My City app nearly every day. Smell My City is a smartphone app designed to crowdsource reports of pollution odors.

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