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RIGA TWP., Mich. – The fate of a zoning ordinance regulating industrial wind turbines in Riga Township is in the hands of voters. Developing the ordinance divided the township and, at one point, resulted in an unsuccessful recall attempt against Supervisor Jeff Simon.
Following more than a year of study, debate and public comment, the Riga Township board adopted a zoning ordinance July 6 regulating wind energy turbines. That wasn’t the end of the issue, though.
Riga voters will cast ballots in a referendum vote Tuesday, Nov. 8, on whether to uphold the ordinance or throw it out and start over. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and voting will take place in the Riga Township Hall, 7817 Riga Highway.
A “yes” vote will allow the ordinance to take effect. A “no” vote means the township planning commission will make amendments to the ordinance and submit it back to the township board for action.
A key element of the zoning amendment requires the setback from non-participating property to be four times the height of a wind turbine. The ordinance also 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.
Paul Wohlfarth headed the petition drive that put the issue before voters. Wohlfarth said he started the drive because he felt the ordinance was too restrictive and because too much pressure from outside of the township was exerted on the township planning commission and township board while drawing up the ordinance.
The Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition (IICC) claimed a victory with the Riga ordinance and has been campaigning against the referendum. Kevon Martis, a director of the IICC, said the wind energy interests had approached Riga Township and asked officials to develop an ordinance governing the turbines.
“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 said. “This certainly will lead to more time invested and more taxpayer money being spent.”
Martis was a member of the Riga Township Planning Commission when the work on the ordinance was started. He was not reappointed when his term expired at the end of 2010.
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