MEADE TOWNSHIP – Whether wind turbines will turn in Meade Township is now in the hands of voters, as the township board officially accepted one resident’s petition for referendum late Tuesday.
In May, more than 525 registered voters in Meade will see a ballot question on whether the development of a wind project with up to 58 turbines should continue in Meade Township.
“If they vote yes, the project goes on; if they don’t want it, they vote no,” said John Ferris, the township board’s attorney.
Resident Rita Parsch, who with about 20 others gathered more than 120 signatures to petition for the referendum, said she was pleased with the board’s rewording of ballot language and unanimous decision to accept it.
“We got the vote, that’s all that we ever wanted,” said Parsch, a 60-year-old substitute teacher who’s lived in Meade for 35 years.
Parsch made her concerns known last summer when township leaders were reviewing DTE’s plans for a new wind park. Irked by what she claimed was shadow flicker created from a turbine in neighboring Chandler Township that cast shadows into her kitchen, she urged the township board to adopt stricter regulations on setbacks, sound levels and turbine height. Her and others gathered more than 70 signatures for a petition requesting changes to the township’s wind ordinance. She then hired an attorney.
“To date about $7,000 has been spent to get us where we are at this moment, which I am not even sure is halfway to our final destination,” Parsch later said in an email. “But the way I look at it we are at least headed in the right direction and this is probably cheaper than suing Meade Township, which nobody wanted to do in the first place.”
The township approved DTE’s overlay district last November, which deemed areas suitable for development. The majority of turbines would be sited in Meade, while about 10 are planned for Colfax Township as part of the $214 million project, according to DTE.
Tuesday’s decision excited DTE’s Wind Site Development Manager Matt Wagner.
“We’re excited because we have clarity,” Wagner said after the meeting. “Having a valid question and knowing that there’s going to be a vote gives us certainty.”
Past referendums asking voters to approve similar issues were shot down in at least two townships. In 2012, Lake Township residents voted against adopting a wind energy zoning ordinance in a 207-128 vote. In 2013, Paris Township voters agreed to stricter zoning, making it difficult for developers to pursue wind projects.
“Those are townships that had already decided long before they had a referendum that they didn’t want wind,” Wagner said.
Wagner said he remains optimistic on the upcoming Meade vote, as township leaders have been supportive of wind energy.
But if voters say no in May, Wagner said one option would be to start the process over again working with planners in Meade. Another is pursuing more opportunities in Colfax or perhaps adding to the 70-turbine Echo Wind Park in Chandler and Oliver townships, he said.
“A Meade vote going down doesn’t necessarily end the project as a whole,” Wagner said. “It’s up in the air. I won’t say everything’s riding on the vote, but it’s important.”
County Commissioner Richard Swartzendruber, who won election in November to represent Chandler, Colfax, Meade and Oliver townships, spoke for the first time publicly in Meade about his feelings toward the project.
He said it came down to weighing the benefits and risks – relating it to driving.
“Every year in our county there are people seriously injured and killed in car accidents, but yet the government doesn’t outlaw motorized vehicles because they feel the benefits outweigh the risks,” Swartzendruber said. “They regulate, try and make them as safe as possible.
“I think the benefits outweigh the risks and I think it would help Meade Township, the county, property owners.”
Deadline to register to vote for the May 5 election in Meade is April 6, according to the Huron County Clerk’s office. Meade residents may register at the Secretary of State Office, county clerk office or with the Meade Township clerk.
DTE Energy’s Mike Serafin also used the meeting to correct a misstatement at an October meeting in Meade Township when he said customers pay $50 per month for wind turbines. Customers pay 43 cents per month for renewable energy, according to DTE.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding