OGDEN TWP., Mich. – The proposed wind turbine projects in Ogden and Riga townships have sparked a recall effort against members of a township board.
Joshua Van Camp of Ogden Township has filed recall petitions against four members of the Ogden Township board because of the potential siting of wind turbines in the township. Van Camp filed petitions this week with the Lenawee County clerk’s office seeking the recall of supervisor James Goetz, clerk Phyllis Gentz, treasurer Rick Dennison and trustee Richard Marks.
Van Camp filed petitions Monday charging Goetz and Gentz with conflict of interest and violating the public trust by signing wind energy leases for property each owns. In filings Wednesday, Dennison and Marks are accused of violating the public trust by not considering the interests of other township residents.
Roxanne Holloway, Lenawee County clerk, said a clarification hearing on the petition wording will take place at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in the probate courtroom of Judge Gregg Iddings. Holloway, Iddings and county treasurer Marilyn Woods make up the Lenawee County Election Board. Their only task is to determine if the wording is clear on the recall petitions.
A fifth board member is not facing recall. Van Camp said trustee Mark Vandenbusche was not targeted because he was the only board member who seemed receptive to the opposition.
Van Camp, a township resident for 23 years, said the biggest reason for seeking the recall is the lack of awareness and the lack of information on wind turbines being dispensed to township residents. He said the Ogden board didn’t have any public meetings to alert people to the proposed wind farms.
“I’ve been to several meetings and tried to get people to take a position,” Van Camp said. “My point being that they need to do something. There has to be a balance.”
Ogden Township does not have zoning, while Riga Township does. Van Camp said that may have led people to believe there was nothing they could do.
“Who’s to say what will happen? Property values are going to be negatively impacted by these (turbines),” Van Camp said. “Without zoning, we don’t have any tools in the tool kit.”
When contacted by The Daily Telegram, Goetz said he had briefly discussed the recall effort with Dennison and Marks and decided to issue a prepared statement that said no conflict of interest exists. He said Van Camp was told at a township meeting that if he wanted zoning reinstated in the township, he would have to circulate a petition to start the process.
“Every land owner in the township has that legal right,” he wrote. “Ogden Township has no zoning, so we all fall under state guidelines on any construction or development.”
Marks said he was confused by Van Camp’s action. Marks said he attended recent presentations at the Zion United Brethren Church from both John Deere, one of the interests involved in putting up the towers, and Van Camp, who argued against.
”I’ve tried to listen to both sides, but I don’t believe I have enough information to make a decision,” Marks said.
Marks said he asked Van Camp to help draw a map showing where wind towers could be located in the township. At the same time, Marks said he welcomes the opportunity for township residents to make their views known.
“I look forward to seeing if they think we are doing the job we were elected to do,” Marks said.
Gentz said she had checked with the Michigan Townships Association before signing any leases on her family’s property and was told there was no conflict of interest. She said the absence of zoning in the township means property owners are pretty much left alone to do what they want with their land, within legal bounds.
“There is no conflict of interest if you don’t have zoning in the township,” she said. “I’m living in the house where I grew up and I’m a third generation township officer. I’m not here to harm my family, my neighbors or my township.”
Goetz said Van Camp was asked if he had any documentation backing his claims of the potential impact the wind towers would cause.
“He did not respond to the board on this issue,” Goetz wrote.
Dennison was not available for comment.
Wind energy and the related technology is such a new concept that the long-term effects are not known, Van Camp said Wednesday.
If the wording is approved Oct. 28, Van Camp would have 180 days to collect the required number of signatures. Holloway said the petition signatures are good for 90 days.
To be successful, recall backers have to collect 107 signatures of Ogden Township registered voters, which represents 25 percent of the voter turnout in the last gubernatorial election. Holloway said 427 township voters cast ballots in the 2006 gubernatorial election.
The Riga Township planning commission is writing a zoning ordinance covering wind turbines. Once it is completed, public hearings will be held before the township board votes on it. Riga officials have been working since July on the ordinance, necessary because, unlike Ogden Township, Riga does have zoning ordinances.
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