MERRITT TOWNSHIP— Community members and other interested parties packed a township hall and waited until shortly before midnight to hear the Merritt Township Planning Commission reject NextEra Energy’s request for a special use permit that would have brought nine wind turbines to the area.
The commission did agree to allow other components of the utility grid wind energy system: an anemometer, a substation and related underground electrical facilitates.
“The debate had been going on for a long time and a decision had to be made,” said Dave Schabel, Merritt Township supervisor. “I think the commission made the best decision that they could.”
Mary Wells, spokesperson for NexEra, said that officials were surprised and very disappointed by the decision.
“It’s astonishing,” Wells said. “We showed them how we had adhered to all of the regulations of their ordinance, and they completely disregarded the rules that they had set in place.”
Before the commission made their decision, more than 40 individuals voiced their opinion showing both support and disapproval regarding NextEra Energy’s request for a special use permit.
Public comment was limited to three minutes per individual unless a special request was approved prior to the meeting.
Annette DuRussel, Merritt Township resident and organizer of the Concerned Citizens of Merritt Township, addressed research in a 30-minute comment that stated Merritt Township was not a viable source of wind and expressed issues with noise, health concerns and shadow flicker.
“Four-hundred and fifty-two residents have signed our petition opposing the issuance of a special use permit to NextEra,” DuRussel said “Merritt Township residents have the right to a good night’s sleep, a scenic view that is currently unobstructed- the list goes on and on.”
DuRussel also asked that construction hours be limited in addition to establishing other conditions that NexEra would have to agree or respond to in order to gain her approval.
If Florida-based NextEra had been granted the special use permit, then nine wind farms would have been brought the community and placed on property leased by homeowners. The turbines proposed for Merritt were part of a wind energy project that spanned three counties and townships.
“We will have to assess how and where we will proceed to develop,” Wells said. “NextEra representatives are not the only disappointed people in this room.”
Construction on the wind farm in Merritt Township was scheduled to span up to nine months and result in the production of 12-15 permanent jobs in addition to temporary construction jobs for local laborers, carpenters, operators and iron workers.
William Borch, president of tri-city building, said that he would have welcomed a wind turbine on to his property.
“I look at it from the jobs perspective,” Borch said. “I see it as putting people to work, a diverse group of local men and women that would be able to work in their own backyards.”
Following public opinion, the Planning Commission asked that NextEra respond to some of their questions on the issue. Questions ranged from complaint resolution, noise concerns, costs and wind strength in the area.
Tom Factor, NextEra representative, said that the company would respond and mitigate any concerns from residents, such as purchasing window blinds to combat shadow flicker from turbine blades.
After the decision, NextEra officials said that the approval of the plant substation and other grid components would facilitate energy production in the other two townships.
Rick Ryers, Gilford resident with property in Merritt Township almost had wind turbines on his properties in two of the three counties NextEra planned to build in.
“I’ll have three turbines in Gilford, and I almost had one here,” Ryers said. “Merritt is different than Gilford because there are more houses in the area, but still, I’m disappointed.”
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