BLISSFIELD, Mich. – Months of heated arguments over wind turbines in southeastern Lenawee County will reach a new milestone Tuesday, when voters in Riga and Ogden townships decide the fates of three office holders.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the recall elections of Riga Township Supervisor Jefferee Simon, Ogden Township Supervisor James Goetz, and Ogden Township Clerk Phyllis Gentz.
Whatever the outcome, the results are unlikely to quell controversy. Those in favor of the proposed wind farms are still gathering signatures in hopes of forcing a Nov. 8 vote on an ordinance that the Riga Township board approved on July 6, one that wind developers consider too restrictive.
Other townships are expected to consider similar ordinances.
The turbine proposal has generated southeastern Lenawee County’s biggest debate in years, pitting neighbor against neighbor.
Proponents of recalling Mr. Simon, Mr. Goetz, and Mrs. Gentz say they have conflicts of interest because of ties to wind developers.
Mr. Simon and Mr. Goetz were not available for comment Thursday, but Mrs. Gentz acknowledged how stressful the recall effort has been on area residents.
“I do not like to see friends or neighbors against each other,” Mrs. Gentz, 63, said. “It’s just sickening how this has divided the community.”
She said she grew up on a farm that has been in her family for 91 years.
Her grandfather Ed Ries was a former Ogden Township constable. Her father, Gordon Ries, is a former Ogden Township treasurer.
Mrs. Gentz said she has been a clerk for 13 years and has plans to retire when her term expires in November, 2012.
She said she does not believe the decision she and her husband, Harry, made to enter into a lease agreement with a developer will hurt the township’s rural heritage.
Such agreements provide unspecified payments, the amount of which is largely dictated by whether turbines are erected.
“I just wanted the best for this township,” she said.
In addition to Riga and Ogden townships, developers are eyeing Fairfield and Palmyra townships.
About 200 wind turbines, many nearly 500 feet tall, are contemplated for Lenawee County.
Many more are being considered in Lenawee’s westward neighbor, Hillsdale County, as well as in Paulding, Van Wert, and Hardin counties in northwest Ohio.
Some have been erected, including an array of dozens in Paulding County south of Antwerp visible from U.S. 24.
Mr. Simon has been accused of using his influence to keep Kevon Martis from being reappointed to the township’s planning commission after Mr. Martis grew suspicious of the wind industry.
Mr. Martis, now with an activist group called the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition Inc., had been the commission’s vice chairman for six years.
Mr. Goetz and Mrs. Gentz were part of a 5-0 vote to place a six-month moratorium on turbine installation in Ogden Township, although proponents of the moratorium were hoping for at least a year.
They also were on the losing end of a 3-2 vote to expand a citizens advisory committee investigating the viability of turbines in Ogden Township. Critics accused the two of them of trying to stack the panel with pro-wind voices.
Mr. Goetz, 65, said in a previous interview that he envisioned a wind turbine on his property being like a supplemental crop – something that would help sustain him through lean times, such as market fluctuations or drought.
He said he also believed he came under fire because – in addition to being township supervisor – he is the local property tax assessor for the state of Michigan.
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