The number of people who spoke out against the approval of Consumers Energy’s special land use permit outnumbered those who were in favor of it by nearly 4 to 1 at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the subject.
The Mason County Planning Commission held a public hearing on Consumers Energy’s proposed wind farm for Riverton and Summit townships Tuesday night.
After presentations given by Consumers Energy hired consultants, Jay Kilpatrick of Williams & Works who is a consultant hired by the county, and from experts arranged by Citizens Alliance for Responsible Renewable Energy, more than 40 people took to the microphone to address the commission.
Many people against the application’s approval were concerned about a potential loss in their property value and difficulty selling their properties.
Victory Township resident Janet Anderson urged the planning commission to deny the application because, she said, it does not meet the standards outlined in the zoning ordinance.
“Who shops for their dream home in a wind farm?” she said.
“Why would anyone want to invest in property surrounded by mammoth, ugly towers,” said one man who owns property within a wind project in Illinois and who has a family member who owns property nearby Consumers Energy’s proposed wind farm in Mason County.
Peggy Houk Paine said she had a personal and economic interest in the wind energy project. She and her husband were planning to inherit her parent’s home in two years and retire in Mason County, however she is now worried of the impact the project, if approved, may bring.
“We wanted to move back to the country and be a part of this community,” she said. “We couldn’t imagine a more perfect place for retirement.”
Now, she said a wind turbine is proposed 1,800 feet from the farm house.
“Our eyes and ears will be dominated by these massive structures,” she said. “Quiet time in the garden or on the porch will be a thing of the past.”
Paine said her parents signed an agreement with Consumers Energy after being told the project would move forward regardless of their agreement. Because of the agreement, the residence will be under a 55 decibel sound limit.
To date, Paine said, the county has made decisions in favor of the project, but she urged planning commissioners to protect residents from negative health issues and diminished property values.
“I am losing my dream, my home and my faith in Mason County.”
Susan Kaiser, of Riverton Township, said the turbines would prevent her from being able to enjoy the outdoors near her home and said she hopes the turbines only shatter her tranquility and not her septic or home foundations. She said her husband, who has Parkinson’s Disease, has extreme balance problems and flicker created by turbine blades could be disorienting and worries that noise created by the turbines will create sleep disturbances for her and her husband.
Darryl Peterson, who farms in Riverton and Summit townships, said he listened to presentations from various sides and heard that the application meets the standards for special land use approval. He urged the commission to approve the application.
Cheryl Baker is also in favor of the application’s approval.
She reminded the planning commission of the financial benefits promised to the area, including schools.
“I’m really hoping that we can get this settled and get it past so we can all go forward,” she said, adding that she would not like to see coal or nuclear plants built instead.
Others who spoke in favor of the project talked about the need for new sources of energy and jobs.
George Sadler of Riverton Township argued that equipment used on farms is noisier than the turbines will be.
Kirk Dinkins said he just applied for a permit to build a new home within the project area.
Still others claimed if the wind park became a reality they would leave the area.
Jessie James who moved to Mason County with his family from Los Angeles said he would have four turbines within a mile of his home. He said he left California because he was sick of seeing them and if they came to Mason County he would leave this area too.
“They are a big eyesore,” he said.
James said he drives a truck for a living and has seen the turbines in other states. He also questioned how the turbines would be getting to the area, stating that some of the roads wouldn’t be able to handle the long loads hauled in, especially intersections with trees since the trucks hauling turbines will need large radii to turn.
Several residents also shared concern over health and safety impacts the turbines might have.
Eric and Karen Jefferies of Riverton Township plan to use their home, the old Riverton school, as an adult foster care facility.
They stated that flicker is annoying for a healthy person and dangerous for elderly people who may suffer vertigo.
Erik said the project doesn’t meet the zoning ordinance standards, and that the turbines would change the character of the area.
Karen said she loves their home and enjoying nature around it, but the turbines have her very concerned.
She also said she home schools her children and is concerned the turbines may make that difficult.
Fran Sinnott, who lives in Ludington but has family property in Riverton Township, said she’s lived a lot of places during her lifetime.
“Every place I went the song in my heart was the ‘Green, green grass of home’,” she said.
One of her favorite things to do is listen to birds that come to the area each spring and she is concerned the noise created by turbines will hamper that. She is also concerned of the turbines causing adverse health effects on her elderly mother.
Mary Nichols, who is a Mason County Commissioner and past Riverton Township board member, said she’d like to see property owners notified that fall in category where they will receive more than 10 hours of flicker by the turbines.
She also said she found a draft copy of a map colored by the Riverton Township board 10 years ago showing how the community would like to be zoned.
“I know and understand why the township is deeply divided,” she said.
A Free Soil resident raised questions about if a similar project would be constructed in that area. She was told that while leases had previously been procured, there has been no formal application submitted at this point.
Consumers Energy has said they do not plan to build another project in the Free Soil area.
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