Strong winds smacked the otherwise silent fields of Meade Township on Tuesday night.
A calmer decision made inside the town hall building puts DTE Energy one step closer to capturing that breeze.
Parts of the township are now deemed suitable for wind energy development, as the town board gave final approval of DTE’s request for an overlay district in a 4-1 vote.
The decision does not guarantee DTE the right to build. Next, permits must be obtained by the utility and a site map reviewed by township officials.
The utility originally planned to build 52 turbines in Meade Township and 13 in Colfax Township. While the number for Colfax has fluctuated little, about 10 fewer turbines are planned for Meade Township – a result of what officials claim is meeting some residents “halfway” in demands for farther setbacks and tighter regulation.
Installation of the $250 million, 100-megawatt park would power the utility to 10.2 percent of the 10 percent renewable energy goal utilities must meet by 2015, DTE officials said. The park would bring an estimated $4 million in tax revenue to Meade Township in a 20-year period, according to DTE.
Meade Township Supervisor Bernie Creguer said DTE has met residents “more than halfway.”
“They’ve addressed the shadow flicker; they’ve addressed the setbacks by far more than any other township,” said Creguer, who also serves on the county planning commission.
Creguer said he was a little disappointed that it took so long for the project to move forward.
“I feel we’ve done everything by the book,” he said. “I feel we maybe didn’t manage our time properly. We’re kind of new at this.”
Trustee John Osentoski cast the dissenting vote.
“They’re still presenting us information,” Osentoski said. “They say we should hurry up and get it done for them, when they came to us about wanting wind (turbines) in our township – we did not go to them.”
Osentoski said variables should have been finalized – one being a possible change in turbine locations due to at least 82 residents signing documents excluding themselves from the overlay district after a deadline set by DTE.
“To me, I think they should have been a little bit more organized,” Osentoski said of DTE. “There’s a few too many loose ends.”
Osentoski said he isn’t necessarily for or against allowing wind energy development in the township.
“There’s going to be a lot of people happy with them and a lot of people not happy,” he said.
Creguer said he couldn’t confirm DTE’s estimate that Meade would see $4 million in tax revenue in a 20-year period. But looking around at other townships, such as Oliver and Chandler, he said, it has “been a big boost for them.”
“If I had my way, the bulk of it would go into the roads,” he said of potential tax revenue from the turbines. “Brush control, grooming, road improvements – not just maintenance. And down the road, I suppose we could look at something with this building here.
“We’re still accountable. If people in this township don’t feel we’re spending it wisely, I’m sure they’ll let us know, because it’s their money.”
After several standing-room-only town hall meetings, in which many residents aired concerns, submitted documents and offered feedback – a difference of opinion oftentimes creating a divisive, embattled environment – planners voted to recommend approval of the overlay in a 4-2 vote last month.
“I feel the anti-wind or concerned citizens, I hope they feel we’ve met their requests,” he said. “I just hope everyone can calm down and get back to being neighbors.”
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