RIGA TWP., Mich. —
Advocates of the proposed wind turbines in Riga Township are seeking a referendum vote on a recently adopted zoning ordinance.
Eight days after a recall attempt failed against supervisor Jeff Simon, township resident Paul Wohlfarth filed 19 petitions with 169 signatures on Wednesday. If the signatures are verified, the issue will go on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.
Township clerk Karlene Goetz said she will work on verifying the signatures Monday. She said only 79 verified signatures are needed to put the measure on the ballot.
Wohlfarth, who has spoken at township meetings in favor of the turbines, said in an email Thursday he thinks the issue has been “unfairly influenced by those from outside the township.” He wants a clear referendum for Riga Township, he said.
“This effort will allow Riga residents to vote anonymously without harassment on Nov. 8,” Wohlfarth wrote. “We will advocate the positives of wind turbine development and the economic benefits for Riga and the surrounding area.”
People seeking to oust Simon started the recalls as part of their opposition to the potential siting of wind turbines in the township and what they viewed as a a conflict of interest on the part of Simon. The recall failed Aug. 2 on a 287-no to 268-yes vote.
The group accused Simon of altering the composition of the township planning commission by refusing to reappoint Kevon Martis after his term expired Dec. 31. Martis was involved in writing amendments to the zoning ordinance covering wind turbines.
Martis, a director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition (IICC), said Thursday he will work against the referendum. The IICC was formed in opposition to wind turbines in southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio.
“The IICC will do our very best to support the expensive and well-crafted wind energy ordinance that our board unanimously adopted only one month ago, and we encourage our residents to do the same,” Martis wrote in an email.
He said the wind turbine effort had begun more than three years ago and is now being propped up by subsidies. Martis said Great Lakes Wind LLC and German developer juwi Wind approached Riga Township officials and asked them to create a wind ordinance.
On July 6, the Riga Township Board approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance covering wind turbines. The ordinance had been approved by the Riga Township Planning Commission in May, but turned down by the county planning commission in June.
“After three years of effort and nearly $30,000 in legal fees, these same developers now wish to throw that same ordinance away and start over,” Martis wrote. “This certainly will lead to more time invested and more taxpayer money being spent.”
Key elements of the law require the setback from non-participating property to be four times the height of a wind turbine and limits the sound level to 40 decibels between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and 45 decibels between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Advocates, including representatives of Great Lakes Wind, said the stipulations are too restrictive. Great Lakes Wind is one of three interests seeking to put wind turbines in southeastern Lenawee County.
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