REESE – A special-use permit to build additional wind turbines was approved Tuesday by the Gilford Township Planning Commission during a contentious public hearing that drew about 260 people to the Reese School District’s auditorium.
The approval is for NextEra to look at eight sites to build five turbines and an anemometer. Three sites in Section 14 and three sites in Section 24 are being eyed for the additional turbines, and Section 17 for the anemometer. With those sites, the plan is to withdraw the request for sites in Sections 26, 27, 34 and 35 for development.
The commission had approved construction of 63 turbines in December 2011. The additional ones bring the number of turbines in the township to 68. Plus, the company plans to build seven in Blumfield Township. NextEra needs 75 turbines to fulfill their contract with Detroit Edison.
For almost five hours, information for against wind development was presented, statements and opinions given on both sides of the issue.
“It’s my right to harvest wind of my farm as anything else,” said farmer Scott Bernia.
While Mike Edwards, who drives truck, said he felt windmills “ruined the valley” along Atwater Road in Huron County.
Constructor worker Leroy Bunker, Vassar, worked on the wind development project in Minden City. He contends the sound isn’t intrusive and those is the area are happy with the project. However, later another audience member countered between the noise, vibration and blades’ shadow flicker turbines in Ubly made people ill and some move away.
A flurry of opinions were presented. For each positive presentation or statement, there was a negative come back; and for each negative, there was a positive one. Both positives and negatives of wind development were addressed by acoustical and legal representatives.
As information was presented and statements made, there were cheers and jeers from supporters and opponents.
The Gilford Wind Watch group are against the project. They were represented by Royal Oak Attorney Gary Strauss, and they also brought in acoustical consultant Richard James of Okemos. Strauss cited law and legal issues, which were countered by NextEra’s Attorney Randall Kraker; and NextEra also had an acoustical engineer who countered James’ negatives with other medical data.
Emotions ran high with some trading verbal bars. Audience member Derik Harmon, who is an opponent, was asked twice to stop interpreting and shouting out before he was escorted out in handcuffs by a Reese Village Police officer for disorderly conduct.
The multi-million dollar Tuscola – Bay Wind Energy Project benefits landowners with lease revenue, and a projects tax income the first year for the township and Tuscola County of about $600,000 each, and about $300,000 shared by the Akron – Fairgrove and Reese school districts.
Township resident Helen Weber criticized the project as being just “about the money” without concern for neighbors.
The commission discussed the various points and mulled the issue for about 30 minutes. When commission Chair Dennis Richards asked for action to vote for or against or to table a lengthy silence followed.
Eventually, commission member Bob Prime made the motion to approved NextEra’s request for more windmills, which passed in a vote of three to zero with Kent Houghtaling and Richards abstaining.
“When this meeting is over, I’m resigning,” stated Richards.
However, there is another step. The commission will meet 7 p.m., Tuesday, to review site plans for the additional wind turbines.
Site plans can be downloaded from the Web site spicerplanners.wordpress.com.