Tuscola County’s Gilford Township approves plan for 63 wind turbines, requires developer to meet certain conditions
Credit: By Tom Gilchrist | The Saginaw News, www.mlive.com 12 December 2011 ~~
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GILFORD TWP. – Before a standing-room-only audience of about 130 people Monday night, leaders of this Tuscola County township approved – with conditions – a plan to build 63 electricity-producing wind turbines.
The Gilford Township Planning Commission voted 4 to 0 – with member Kent A. Houghtaling abstaining – to grant a special-use permit to Florida-based NextEra Energy, which proposes a $250 million Tuscola Bay Wind Energy Park.
The proposal also calls for up to nine turbines in Bay County’s Merritt Township and seven turbines in Saginaw County’s Blumfield Township, with NextEra negotiating separately with each of those townships.
Supporters of the project say it will create jobs, boost tax revenues and provide income to land owners entering into agreements with NextEra, which would sell wind-generated electricity to Detroit Edison for use locally.
“We have a great opportunity in this township to move forward with revenue coming in for the roads, for our township, our schools,” said Jim Howell of Gilford Township, one of 23 speakers addressing the Planning Commission at Monday’s public hearing.
The Planning Commission in Gilford Township, population 822, required NextEra to submit a wildlife mortality study following construction of the 63 wind turbines to demonstrate the project’s impact on birds and other wildlife.
Among other conditions imposed Monday night, the Planning Commission required that a plan to decommission wind turbines, and to pay for the turbines’ removal, be resolved before the Planning Commission issue any permits for site plans allowing construction of individual turbines.
“You want to be sure that if the wind turbines have to come down that there are financial resources available to defray the expense of removal” with Gilford Township not paying for removal, township attorney John J. McQuillan said after the hearing.
Tony Histed of Merritt Township told the Planning Commission that NextEra “could build all those windmills and they would possibly sell ’em to China or something, and China would be getting the money.”
Planning Commission members Dennis Richards, Jacob Dohrmann, Robert Prime and Tim Gruber voted to approve the proposal.
Houghtaling said he abstained from voting “because I have an invested interest in this project, financially.”
NextEra representatives said they hope to begin building wind turbines in the spring, stating the project will increase property taxes by $340,000 in the first year for the Reese School District and by $310,000 for the Akron-Fairgrove School District.
But Gilford Township resident Nancy Taylor told the Planning Commission “Wind energy is not a dependable source of energy; it ruins valuable farm land, endangers birds and wildlife, does not reduce the need for fossil fuels and is being sold to our community based only on financial incentives.”
The NextEra project “enriches a few at the expense of many,” Taylor said.
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