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MEADE TOWNSHIP – Residents of a township ripped asunder by wind will vote May 5 on whether to allow Detroit Edison to move forward with a planned wind park.
The Meade Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept ballot language for an election will give residents a chance to reject a wind energy district requested by DTE, which was approved in November by the board.
Meade Township Corporate Council John Ferris said a petition for referendum circulated by Rita Parsch and other township residents was originally rejected because he found the language inadequate.
“It has to be, where if you give it to 10 people, everybody knows what it says. It had to be in the form of a yes or no question. Because, if you think about it, every time you’ve gone in to vote on a referendum or anything in a voting booth, there is a yes or no at the end,” he said.
At its January meeting, the board decided to work with Parsch’s attorney, Joshua J. Nolan, and Ferris to draft language that reflects the petitioners’ intent.
“After I read it, I felt that it was adequate. It was in the form of a yes or no question, and it did explain what was going to be on the ballot,” Ferris said.
The ballot question will read: “The Meade Township Board approved an ordinance amendment to establish a wind overlay district on Nov. 11, 2014. This approval will allow the development of a wind energy project to continue in Meade Township. Should this ordinance amendment be approved, yes or no?”
Trustee John Osentoski asked whether the referendum deals only with the wind overlay district, not with setbacks or other restrictions that could be required by the township’s ordinance.
Meade Township Supervisor Bernie Creguer confirmed that the vote will affect to overlay district alone.
“If they vote yes, than the wind overlay district is approved and the project goes on. If they vote no, it doesn’t; they don’t want the wind overlay district,” Creguer said.
“It makes it clear for everybody,” Osentoski said.
Meade Township Planning Commission Chairman Rob Heck said that if voters reject the wind overlay district, the planning commission will have reconsider the project and attempt to make changes that residents will accept.
“It’s my understanding that …, because of the language in PA 295, we cannot legislate that the wind energy project can just be completely turned down,” Heck said.
“A lot of people have very strong feelings one way or another. That’s why you’re here tonight, probably. But I found, and it surprised me, that there are a lot of people out there that feel as I do. They know there are benefits to it, and they’ve heard different concerns and problems also. And, they’re not passionate one way or the other. They can see the pros and they can see the cons,” he said.
Huron County Commissioner Richard Swartzendruber, who represents Meade Township, addressed the crowded township hall regarding his opinion of wind development.
He said he has sat through many board meetings and listened to the concerns of all parties and he’s also read numerous documents regarding the benefits and drawbacks of wind energy.
“I had to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks. That’s pretty much what government people have to do, is weigh the benefits and the risks, because there are very few benefits that don’t come with some risks,” he said. “I drove here in a vehicle tonight, as I suspect most of you did, and every year in our county there are people seriously injured and killed in car accidents, and yet the government doesn’t outlaw motor vehicles because they feel the benefits outweigh the risks. They regulate, try to make them as safe as possible, but they do allow those to be used. … I think the benefits (of wind energy) outweigh the risks, and I think it would help Mead Township; I think it would help the county; I think it would help property owners,” he said.
He said he has been disappointed by residents who insult and belittle those whose opinions differ from their own.
“When I hear a speaker do that, they tend to lose credibility with me. … If they were making some good points, they kind of get pushed to the wayside, because all I can think about is discourteous behavior. I hope people would realize that people are entitled to different opinions on different issues. They may feel strongly about it, but please keep your comments on the issues and stay away from personal attacks.
Meade Township landowner and former Huron County Commissioner Steve Vaughan said Swartzendruber’s opinion echoes his own.
“It’s economics. When you look at the economic picture it makes sense,” Vaughan said.
DTE representatives in attendance at the meeting also touted the economic benefits wind parks provide. See next week’s Huron County View for details about the tax revenue local municipalities have received from developers.
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