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Merritt Township rejects wind energy

MUNGER – Residents of Merritt Township waited until almost midnight Tuesday night to find out that a proposed $250 million dollar wind turbine project will not go forward. The project has divided this community with some residents in favor of the project that will bring jobs to the community and some opposed based on concerns about shadows from the windmills and other inconveniences they might create.

An attorney for the company in charge of the project, Next Era Energy, told the packed township hall earlier in the evening Tuesday that the company has the legal right to go forward with the project. Project Director Jason Utton gave a presentation about the economic benefits of the now 9 proposed turbines, saying the $250 million dollar project will create 12 to 15 jobs and give the community and local schools and influx of tax revenue.

“We’ve been owning and operating wind farms since the late 1980s and are excited to developing in Michigan to infuse rural communities with sizable investment while putting a lot of people to work,” said Utton to a divided crowd. Utton and other company representatives said that Next Era and it’s subsidiary, Tuscola Bay Wind, will address any resident concerns at the company’s expense, including installing shades and drapes to help residents who are bothered by the flickering shadows of the windmills, and even planting trees to block the flicker in resident’s sight lines.

But an attorney for a citizen group opposed to the project says it’s not enough. Joshua J. Nolan spoke on behalf of concerned citizens citing a number of issues he says the company has with the project, including paperwork that he says was not properly completed. Nolan also said that since the insurance is provided through the parent company, Next Era and not the subsidiary and could cause leave the township high and dry if Next Era pulls out of the project. Utton says that isn’t true and that insurance through the parent company is actually more valuable, but that the company would provide it through the subsidiary if the township preferred.

Mary Wells, community relations representative for Next Era says the company will now weigh it options while proceeding with turbines in Bloomfield and Gilford Townships that are already approved. She says they are disappointed that the township “ignored it’s own ordinances”, saying the company followed through with everything that was requested.