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Vote sought on wind-turbine law

BLISSFIELD, Mich. – Riga Township’s newly adopted ordinance for commercial-scale wind turbines could be subject to voter approval this fall.

Joyce Thompson, a Riga Township resident in favor of having turbines erected, Thursday filed a notice of intent with the Riga Township clerk’s office for a referendum to repeal the ordinance, seen by some as too restrictive. The issue will go on the Nov. 8 ballot if she files signatures from 79 of the township’s 1,054 registered voters by the close of business on Aug. 12, clerk Karlene Goetz said.

By law, 15 percent of those who cast their ballots in Michigan’s last gubernatorial election must sign petitions for such initiatives to get on the ballot. Riga Township had 528 registered voters cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, Ms. Goetz said.

Ms. Thompson declined comment.

Wind-industry advocates look to pass a new ordinance with different regulations than the one approved by the Riga Township Board on July 6. Companies hoping to erect turbines in Riga Township have said the current ordinance does not give them the flexibility they need to build structures that have been proposed, machines that are 493 feet tall.

That’s 80 feet taller than downtown Toledo’s highest building and 25 percent taller than the four turbines American Municipal Power installed in the Wood County landfill southwest of Bowling Green in 2003 and 2004.

Neighboring townships are considering whether to follow suit with similar ordinances.

The issue has been a divisive one for southeastern Lenawee County, drawing a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people to the meeting at which the ordinance was adopted.

Voters are to decide Aug. 2 whether to recall Riga Township Supervisor Jeferee Simon, Ogden Township Supervisor James Goetz, and Ogden Township Clerk Phyllis Gentz. The trio are accused of having conflicts of interest with the proposed wind-power projects.

Various developers have announced plans to erect what could amount to a total of 200 turbines across Riga, Ogden, Palmyra, and Fairfield townships.

Opponents have cited concerns over land values, noise, shadow flicker, and other issues.