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Meade Township turbine vote still an option for May ballot

MEADE TOWNSHIP – In May, Meade Township voters may get to decide in a referendum vote a question on wind energy – that is, if officials clear up the wording in time.

A petition submitted by Meade resident Rita Parsch in December asks voters if areas in the township should be deemed suitable for wind energy development. Parsch and a group of about 20 others collected more than 120 signatures to get it on the ballot.

The township clerk, however, deemed it inadequate based on unclear wording and not posing a yes-or-no question.

Now, the question will “probably” make it on the May ballot, Township Supervisor Bernie Creguer said Tuesday to about 60 people attending a township meeting.

It was the most certainty Creguer could offer to inquisitive residents on both sides of the issue.

“I’m accepting the petition but we’re not accepting the wording,” Creguer said.

Parsch worked with Toledo attorney Joshua Nolan to draft language for the petition, which reads: “A referendum election on Meade Township resolution 2014-3, wind energy overlay district, amendment to the Meade Township ordinance of 2013-1, as approved by the Meade Township board on November 11, 2014.”

Creguer said the township clerk must be able to turn that into a yes-or-no statement to put on the ballot.

“We felt we could not do that,” he said. “The county clerk felt it could not be done.”

The township sought legal opinion from Bad Axe attorney John Ferris in December, who previously deemed the petition inadequate based on similar reasoning.

Creguer said he’s also received advice from people in several townships – both “pro-wind people” and “negative-wind people.”

“They all felt basically the same thing,” he said. “You could word that a million different ways.”

The board is again consulting Ferris to rework the question so it will be able to make it to the ballot. It also are reviewing suggestions received from Nolan, Creguer said.

Nolan, in response to the initial determination of the petition, threatened suit against the township if a referendum election didn’t make it to the May ballot.

“We’re trying to eliminate that (court) cost,” Creguer said.

Creguer said he did not have an official answer for residents yet, but will accept the potential ballot question unless advised not to by its legal counsel.

“If we can’t convert that wording, we may reject it,” he said.

The board’s regular meeting has been moved up to Feb. 3 so that officials can make a final decision ahead of the Feb. 10 deadline to get the issue on the May ballot.

The petition was triggered by DTE Energy’s plans to construct up to 58 wind turbines in Meade and Colfax townships. The majority would be sited in Meade, while 10 could be placed in Colfax and one turbine is now planned for Chandler Township, according to Project Manager Mike Serafin, who previously said the utility would be ready to begin construction by May 18 if a referendum “works in our favor.”