ESSEX TWP. – More than 100 concerned individuals fill the Maple Rapids Community Center Oct. 9 for a special meeting of the Essex Township board. The purpose of the meeting was to hold a public hearing on the propose wind turbine project for the township.
The meeting became quite emotional and tense at times as individuals expressed their opinions and concerns. But before that, Rex Ferguson, township trustee, read a letter from a petitioner in the township presenting concerns of residents and Lynn Ferguson, township supervisor, give a brief history of the project.
Next, there were three 20-minute presentations.
Sam Schiller and Dave Waymire from Forest Hills Energy, L.L.C. – the company applying to build a wind farm in Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships – spoke about the project.
Schiller said Forest Hills proposes to build six turbines in the township. He assured the audience that Clinton County has established stricter limitations than those set forth in other counties. He talked about all the studies that have been done, in compliance with county requirements.
“The county has required that a lot of work be done up front,” said Schiller, “at considerable cost.”
He spoke about the noise study and the company’s intent to create a “good, renewable energy source.”
Dave Waymire, also from Forest Hills, said they have followed every single regulation laid out by the county. He pointed out that the county changed the rules part way through the process. “The county made it more difficult to comply, and still we met the requirements,” he said.
Waymire suggested that people who have concerns go up to Gratiot County and talk to people there.
He urged people to use “common sense.”
When asked if the turbines would last the life of the 30-year lease, Schiller said they are designed to survive the length of the 20-year power purchase agreement.
When asked about capacity, Schiller said the turbine generates full capacity when the wind speed is at the top end of the range. He added that they expect the turbines to be at full capacity about one third of the time.
Richard James of E-coustic Solutions in East Lansing spoke in technical terms about the dangers of the noise emissions from the turbines. Though most of what he said was very complex, his primary message seemed to be that it isn’t the audible sounds from the turbines that cause health problems. It’s the deep, modulated rumble that causes nausea, migraines and other symptoms in sensitive individuals.
James questioned what is a safe level of those noises – noises that are felt more than heard. He suggested that the township set the limit even lower than proposed by the county.
Bill Fahey, an attorney working with Dallas Township, explained how that township created an ordinance that doesn’t deal with zoning, which is the purview of the county, but rather is a policing policy – “a layer that goes on top of the zoning ordinance.”
He explained that the township issues a license, but that it can’t be issued until the applicant proves it will meet all the qualifications. And the license can be terminated if any of the qualifications are not met at any time during the licensing period.
Dallas Township did their own research and decided they wanted to address their own concerns, according to Fahey. He quickly went through the highlights of the ordinance – explaining how it exceeds the requirements established by the county.
And he made a gift to the township of a copy of the Dallas Twp. ordinance.
Then, after a 15-minute intermission, the comments from the audience began.
With very few exceptions, those who spoke expressed their opposition and concerns.
“We aren’t going to be able to sell our homes,” said one resident of the township. “If the turbines were here, I wouldn’t move into this township.”
One man, who admitted he intends to have a turbine on his property, said if someone moved in next door to him and wanted to put in a hog farm, he would have to think about it. He said it wouldn’t be difficult for him to make a choice between a hog farm and a wind turbine.
But on a more serious note, he said he has been threatened because of his intent to allow the wind turbine.
“I was told if I put one (wind turbine) on my property, I better be wearing my bullet-proof vest,” he said.
Numerous individuals stated they believe the township should pass the ordinance that Dallas Twp. adopted, but even more strict, if possible.
Gina Karasek encouraged establishment of a two-mile buffer zone. Every single person within a two-mile radius of a proposed wind generator would have to agree in order for it to be built. She also said the township should require Forest Hills to agree to a property value guarantee.
Nancy Rademacher, who is building a new home in Dallas Twp. said she had taken Waymire’s advice and taken her mother and children to Gratiot County last summer. She described stopping her van along the road, near a wind turbine.
Immediately her mother said “You have to get me out of here. I can’t take this.”
She is obviously one of those people who are sensitive to the low rumble of the turbines, according to Rademacher.
Mr. Karasek, a township resident, said he is a staunch believer in property rights, and a very staunch believer in capitalism.
“But I don’t want it (a wind generator) in my back yard. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear it. …End of story,” he said.
His statement, like countless others, was followed by applause from the majority of the audience.
There are six dairy farms in the vicinity of the proposed turbines. Several individuals expressed concerns about the effects of the noise on animals. Schiller and Waymire stated there were no adverse effects on the environment or wildlife, but the audience obviously didn’t believe them.
Shirley Eldridge, another township resident, said she hadn’t intended to speak. She said she is an advocate of developing and utilizing renewal, green energy.
“But after listening tonight, I’d like the township to adopt the Dallas Twp. ordinance, and even more strict, if possible,” said Eldridge.
The Clinton County Zoning Commission was scheduled to meet Oct. 11 and the special land use permit request was on the agenda. It was tabled for 30 days at the Sept. 27 special meeting, pending further discussion and information, to be reviewed on Oct. 11.
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