The Mason County Board of Commissioners Tuesday agreed to halt new wind energy development in the county for one year – to Dec. 11, 2013 – or until there is resolution to issues raised by Commissioner Susan Boes.
Boes raised the issue during the last minutes of her last meeting as a commissioner, since the board’s size will be reduced from 10 members to seven Jan. 1. Boes is not one of the five current commissioners who will remain on the board (see related story, A3).
The board’s vote was six to four, with Boes, Lewis Squires, Bob Erickson, Rich Morong, Mary Nichols and Jeff Barnett voting yes while commissioners Joseph Lenius, Charles Lange, Tom Posma and Curt VanderWall voted no.
Boes passed out her resolution to the other board members just before Tuesday’s meeting was adjourned and then let them read it before reading it herself for the full board. Commissioners then briefly discussed the issue before casting their votes.
In her resolution Boes cited the following:
• that Mason County has joined other counties to form a group to potentially sue the state if it reduces tax revenues from wind energy facilities.
• that a Consumers Energy employee told the Michigan Public Service Commission that the company’s Lake Winds Energy Park in Riverton and Summit townships offers geographic diversity for continued development of responsible renewable energy projects.
• that Consumers Energy and the county are already receiving complaints about the wind farm.
• that county officials need time to review the full impacts of setbacks, shadow and flicker, sound, internet interference, bird and bat kills and enforcement of the ordinance.
• that 16,000 acres of land in Riverton Township is still under easement for wind turbine placement.
• that 8,000 acres of land in the northern part of the county has signed easements for placement of wind turbines, including 122 land owners in Victory Township.
• that the county is currently reviewing the master comprehensive plan.
Then she sought and gained board approval for the one-year ban on wind turbine installation.
“We can’t change what has already happened, but maybe we can slow down the future,” Boes said before the vote.
Lange told Boes and the rest of the board that the Mason County Planning Commission may already have an open-ended moratorium on wind farm development until it finishes continued study of the issue.
Today, Mason County Building and Zoning Director Mary Reilly said the planning commission took action in August to announce it will not accept any special land use requests for wind turbines until it has completed studying setback requirements.
Reilly also said she has received seven complaints about the Consumers’ wind farm since it began operations in November. She said she’s received about 50 complaints dating back to the beginning of construction of the turbines, with 35 of those complaints from two property owners.
On Tuesday, Boes read several emails she has received from people complaining about the current wind farm.
Posma noted that usually issues such as recommended halts or moratoriums come to the board from the planning commission.
During the beginning of Tuesday’s board meeting, five county residents spoke against the current wind farm – of 56 Consumers Energy turbines standing 476 feet tall in Riverton and Summit townships.
Cary Shineldecker handed photos of a wind turbine installation near his home to commissioners who were serving at their last meeting Tuesday.
Aldon Malekas said Ralph Lundberg should not be on the planning commission because he has a lease for a turbine on his property.
Evelyn Bergaila said she hears a noise from a wind turbine near her home every 15 seconds.
John Morong said Consumers Energy can afford to buy all the property owned by people who don’t like the wind turbines.
Susan Keiser said a turbine near her home affects her cell phone use and the channels her TV antenna can receive.
During their next time for public comments near the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Shineldecker said he will leave Mason County as soon as he can sell his home.
Bergaila and Malekas also spoke against the wind farm.
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