BAD AXE – County Commissioners discussed the frustrations of several wind leaseholders during this week’s meeting.
Commissioner Jeremy Tietz said the leaseholders had come to him and asked if there was anything the board could do in the face of disagreement between them and Next Era Energy over turbine placement.
“The farmers are looking to us right now. … Is there legally anything this board can do to help them in this process?” Tietz asked.
He said the farm owners were not able to speak out themselves, due to gag orders in their contracts.
County Attorney Stephen Allen said there was nothing the county could do.
“They entered into a contract, and our ordinance prohibits us as a governmental entity from making a decision based on the zoning ordinance to resolve a private dispute, one way or the other,” Allen said.
Commissioner Steve Vaughan said many leaseholders negotiated their own contracts.
“… They went out on their own. They did their own negotiating. They have to seek their own counsel,” Vaughan said. “We don’t know what they did, or how they did it, but they had an attorney involved in putting their contract together. That attorney should represent them in this process.”
Similar issues were brought up at this month’s planning commission meeting, which saw the approval of NextEra’s 88-turbine Pheasant Run Park, pending a few conditions.
A lawyer representing several leaseholders spoke near the beginning of that meeting.
“My clients wholeheartedly and absolutely support the Pheasant Wind Project,” Stephon Bagne of Clark Hill in Detroit said. “… My clients are currently in discussions with Next Era. … We look forward to completing those discussions with NextEra. When those discussions are complete, we will at that time be able to stand before this body and wholeheartedly support this specific site plan. We hope to bring these discussions to a speedy conclusion.”
Project Manager Ryan Pumford told the Tribune on Thursday that the company had come to an agreement with the leaseholders this week, saying that they were able to meet most of the requests, before calling it a “win, win.”
It’s something he said the company takes pride in being able to do regularly.
“I won’t say that every landowner is happy, there are just some areas we couldn’t accommodate … but we did accommodate 98 percent of the requests that were given to us,” Pumford said.
He added that it is regular for a commercial contract to have language preventing a signee from discussing the contract with others, calling it a confidentiality agreement – rather than a gag order.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding