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Wind energy debate shifts to Ogden and Palmyra townships

ADRIAN, Mich. – With the approval in Riga Township of a wind turbine ordinance that wind power supporters say effectively bans turbines in the township, the wind energy debate now shifts to Ogden and Palmyra townships.

In Ogden Township, which does not have zoning, the township board will be discussing a police powers ordinance to regulate turbines. In Palmyra Township, where the township board recently passed an ordinance that would allow wind energy development, supporters of stricter rules will try to overturn the township board’s ordinance through a referendum in February.

Tuesday’s election results essentially take Riga Township off the table for the Blissfield Wind Energy Project, said Doug Duimering, a project manager with Exelon Wind, one of the partners in the project.

“We don’t have a way to put turbines in Riga Township right now,” he said. “The ordinance is extraordinarily restrictive.”

The ordinance requires turbines to be no less than four times their own height from non-participating properties and limits noise levels to 40 decibels between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and 45 decibels between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

While members of the Blissfield project are disappointed with the outcome of the Riga vote, Duimering said, the group is looking ahead to discussions with the Ogden Township board. He extended congratulations to supervisor Richard Marks and clerk Alice Clark, who were elected Tuesday to the seats they had been appointed to fill after the previous supervisor and clerk were recalled.
“We’re looking forward to working with the board to discuss the future of wind development in Ogden Township,” Duimering said.

Both Marks and Clark were supported by the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, the group that has been working against wind developers’ plans in the area.

A spokesman for juwi Wind, another wind power company, said juwi is evaluating its options after the election.

“We would like to thank the voters and all those in favor of wind energy in Riga Township,” said Aaron Peterson, manager of community relations and regulatory affairs for juwi Wind. “We are disappointed that the vote indicates the community did not support wind energy and its economic benefits. There was a significant amount of misinformation spread throughout the community during the referendum process. We will continue to evaluate project development options.”

Paul Wohlfarth, president of Riga Residents for Wind, said that with the results of Tuesday’s vote, he believes the township will see its revenue situation worsen and residents can look forward to future millage requests to repair roads.

“Without economic development we all suffer from lower property values, higher unemployment and higher taxes,” he said.

In Palmyra Township, meanwhile, turbine opponents have taken the first step toward trying to overturn the township’s wind ordinance at the ballot box.

Kevon Martis, a director of the IICC, said Laura Van Camp of Palmyra Township delivered a notice of intent to the township clerk on Tuesday.

Martis said the plan is to gather signatures for a referendum on Feb. 28 – unless the board reverses its position and enacts a stricter ordinance, which he said he doesn’t think will happen.

“I think it will have to be tossed by referendum to get there,” he said.

As in Tuesday’s Riga Township election, voters would be deciding whether to uphold the township board’s ordinance or overturn it. However, Martis said, the wording of the initiative, including whether a yes vote is to keep the ordinance or to overturn it, will be at the board’s discretion.

Martis said his group isn’t against turbines but feels the setbacks proposed by wind companies aren’t enough. Turbines on the proposed scale are more suited to areas with less population density, he argued.

“It’s our opinion that 500-foot turbines are like trying to squeeze a size 12 foot into a size 8 shoe,” Martis said.