JOYFIELD TOWNSHIP, MI – Some residents of Michigan’s rural northwestern Lower Peninsula are applying for permits to establish heliports in their efforts to block rural wind turbine development.
Turbines can’t be built near the liftoff and landing pads for helicopters, and observers say the tactic could gain momentum statewide, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported Wednesday.
Benzie County’s Joyfield Township once was considered part of a site for a proposed wind farm. The community of 800 now could soon have up to eight licensed, stand-alone public heliports. That comes after Joyfield Township residents last year recalled three township trustees and replaced them with wind farm project opponents.
Heliports could prevent construction of wind turbines or any structure taller than 200 feet within almost a one-mile radius of the landing pads, the state said. According to the township, at least one permit has gone to a resident who wanted to figure out a way to prevent wind turbine development.
Tom Hart, who unsuccessfully ran for township supervisor, said wind development proponents were shocked by the number of heliport proposals.
“We really have grown weary of these tricks and gimmicks,” he said.
Myron Burzynski, who said he isn’t part of the wind farm opposition, constructed a heliport for what he said is as a side business to promote tourism.
“I’m working strictly with one pilot,” Burzynski said. “I can’t speak for the others.”
Joyfield Township’s emergence as a possible location of numerous heliports has been met with skepticism among some residents.
“It seems pretty fishy to me,” said Susan Zenker, who lives near one of the proposed heliports. “I know all of the people who have applied, and as far as I know not one of them has a helicopter.”
The idea of heliports comes after a political fight about wind turbines in the area. Earlier this year, Duke Energy Renewables announced that it discontinued plans to build a wind farm in Benzie and Manistee counties. Estimates for the project said it would include anywhere between 62 to 112 turbines.
The company started looking for sites in 2009. Duke Energy’s original plan included property in four townships but that had been scaled back to two.
“It’s a contentious issue that’s not going away gracefully,” said Ted Wood, Joyfield Township clerk.
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