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Planning Commission chair resigns following Gilford Township’s approval of more wind turbines  

Credit:  By MacKenzie Burger, www.mlive.com 19 April 2012 ~~

GILFORD TOWNSHIP, MI – A public hearing on a proposal to bring five more wind turbines to Tuscola County lasted almost five hours earlier this week, but officials finally reached a decision.

“We had a lot of nays and yays – a lot of people saying good and bad things,” said Gilford Township Supervisor Jim Stockmeyer. “It was voted through, and they got the other five windmills.”

The Gilford Township Planning Commission approved NextEra Energy’s request for a “special use permit for a utility grid wind energy system” at a public hearing held on Tuesday at Reese High School. The project includes one anemometer, eight sites to place five wind turbines and related facilities capable of producing a total rated output of 12.8 megawatts.

Last year, the commission approved the placement of 63 wind turbines in the township. Seven wind turbines were also approved in Saginaw County’s Blumfield Township. NextEra’s proposed wind project includes the placement of 75 wind turbines between Gilford and Blumfield Townships.

Three Commission members voted in favor of the request and two abstained from voting. The decision was made after gathering public comment from more than 50 individuals who addressed the Commission at the hearing.

Commission Chair Dennis Richards was one of those who abstained from voting, and he submitted his resignation following the decision.

“I resigned because of health issues that developed due to dealing with this – I just couldn’t take anymore,” Richards said. “It has been stressful because there was so much controversy, but I feel 100 percent better already.”

Stockmeyer said that concerns from the township residents included potential impacts on human health and wildlife, decreasing home value and aesthetics.

“I’m neutral on the issue, but the majority of the residents support it,” Stockmeyer said. “There was a petition in opposition of the project with around 120 signatures, or about one sixth of the township is not so excited about this.”

The Planning Commission requires 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. A site plan review is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Tuesday, April 24 at Gilford Township Hall, 6230 W. Gilford Road.

Construction on the wind farm could begin in five to six weeks, Stockmeyer said.

“I did ask NextEra to consider local contractors for the construction work, but that depends on the bids,” Stockmeyer said.

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.

NextEra’s contract with Detroit Edison required a 75-turbine project. NextEra official approached Gilford with a request to build five more turbines after their attempt to construct them in Merritt Township was denied earlier this year.

Source:  By MacKenzie Burger, www.mlive.com 19 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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