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Turbine meeting turns out hundreds, forces cancellation

RIGA, Mich. – When Riga Township resident “Lady” MacBeth arrived at the Riga Municipal Building Thursday night to hear the Riga Township Board’s final decision on zoning ordinances that will determine the fate of 200 wind turbines proposed for the area, she was told to turn around.

The building was filled to capacity – it is only designed to hold 200 people – and had no more space for the 150 additional people swarming the entrances.

“I said, ‘I’m a Riga Township person. This is about a Riga Township issue, and I’m going in,’ ” Ms. MacBeth said she told the man standing at the door. “I went in and did not come back out.”

The township planned Thursday night to make a final decision on whether to allow three development groups to build about 200 land-based wind turbines on farmland in the township. But Thursday night’s space constraints prompted township officials to attempt to hold the meeting with the first 200 in the door; then discuss for about 30 minutes whether they should proceed; then finally announce that the meeting would be rescheduled to a later date.

Township board member Jefferee Simon said the board was concerned about state law and over-filling the building.

“We’ve never had that many people there,” said Simon, who has been on the board for two and a half years and said most meetings bring out fewer than a dozen residents. “The way we did it tonight was handled by the chief of the fire department. That’s state law [keeping it under capacity].”

The township’s attorney attended the meeting and recommended they reschedule when they could accommodate everyone in a different location, Simon added.

Tentative plans by the developers to build the turbines – each 80 feet taller than the highest building in downtown Toledo – in the southeastern portion of Lenawee County, have been promoted as a potential boon to the area’s tax base because of the potential to bring in millions of dollars to the area.

James Manning of Juwi Wind LLC – one of the developers – said the turbines would bring about $20 million to the local community and provide 150 citizens with jobs during the construction period. The wind companies would also employ six to eight residents to permanently monitor the turbines.

“This is an economic opportunity for the community,” Mr. Manning said.

But the issue has been controversial to say the least. Many in the community and the neighboring townships of Ogden, Palmyra, and Fairfield – and across the border in Sylvania Township – have had concerns about the wind turbines and their anticipated noise. Beyond a feared disruption of peace and quiet, many residents argue the project will hurt property values or maybe cause health issues.

Marcia Pasternack, a mother of eight, said she worries that if the board allows the turbines to be constructed too close to her residence, her family will have to find another home. Her son has special needs and suffers from sensory sensitivity, she said. He would be unable to tolerate the low vibrations turbines would cause.

“Any child with any sensitivities, anyone who has health impairments, you get these low vibrations and it’s difficult,” Ms. Pasternak said.

A new meeting date has not been scheduled – township officials said Thursday that they would give at least 18 hours notice before holding the next meeting.

Township officials said anyone interested can sign up for automatic notifications about the new meeting date and all future meetings at www.rigatownship.com.