CADILLAC – A Wexford County judge turned down a motion by the defendants in a wind turbine lawsuit to allow as many as 200 property owners who lease their property to the wind developers to be added as participants in the suit.
Several dozen property owners filled one half of the 28th Circuit Court courtroom in Wexford County Tuesday afternoon as a motion to add the property owners as parties to the case was heard by Judge William Fagerman.
The plaintiffs in the case are Charles and Debby Wiltzer and their son, Seager, an elementary school student. The Wiltzer’s suit contends they have suffered numerous disturbances due to the construction of a wind turbine on property across the road from their home, within approximately 1,500 feet. The family says two other wind turbines within three-quarters of a mile from the home may also have an impact. The Stoney Corners Wind Farm consists of 29 wind turbines and generates more than 60 megawatts of electricity – enough to power all of Wexford County.
Plaintiff’s attorney Susan Hlywa Topp said due to the placement of the wind turbines, the family has been forced to instead live at their second home to avoid issues with sleep disturbance, dizziness, stress, fatigue, weight loss, headaches, motion disturbance and other problems. Charles Wiltzer has a history of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and otosclerosis, and abnormal growth of bone near the middle ear that can result in hearing loss that he claims makes him particularly susceptible to infrasound said to be generated by the turbines.
Heritage had presented a motion in the suit asking that property owners with land leased for wind turbines be allowed to participate because the owners have an interest in the revenue generated by the wind turbines in the form of royalties. They also have an interest in being able to do what they want with their own land in general, said Heritage’s attorney Kurt Bowden.
Judge William Fagerman said he was denying the motion to have the hundreds of property owners added to the suit for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that with the suit already in litigation for 18 months, it was too late. Fagerman said that ideally, civil suits should take not more than a year to progress through the court system, and that Heritage already had missed the date of Oct. 29, 2012, for adding other parties to the suit.
Fagerman also stated that including the property owners in the case is not essential as far as potentially granting relief to the plaintiffs. He also noted the Wiltzers are not trying to prohibit the property owners from receiving royalty checks.
Also, as Fagerman noted, the suit already has gone through every phase except for going to trial, including going to mediation, which failed to bring a resolution.
The trial is scheduled to begin May 20.
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