MEADE TOWNSHIP – Developers will continue building two wind energy projects in the county, but voters will decide the fate of a third on Tuesday.
The May 5 ballot question asks Meade Township voters whether DTE Energy’s 58-turbine Meade Wind Park should continue.
Polls open 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m. at the Meade Hall, 2119 W. Filion Road. Voters need to bring a photo ID.
In an effort to ramp up support for the wind project, DTE hosted a media-only wind tour on Wednesday – six days before voters head to the polls.
“Our intention was not to get the last word; our intention was to continue to try and be as open and honest as we can be,” said Matt Wagner, DTE wind site development manager.
Obviously, DTE wants a yes vote. According to Wagner, putting 48 turbines in Meade – the remaining 10 would be in Colfax and Chandler townships – would bring $12 million in tax revenue over 20 years, to support township services like roads, firefighters, schools and libraries.
“Meade Township does not have that many paved roads,” he said. “That’s a big help to them.”
It also would help DTE. Although it’s been reported that Michigan utilities will meet a 10 percent renewable energy state mandate by the end of the year, DTE isn’t quite there yet.
“Meade Wind Park will help us meet the 10 percent – we’re almost there, we’re at like 9.8,” Wagner said. “So it’s pretty important. … We think it’s a good project, we think it will be a close race.”
Meade resident Rita Parsch hopes it won’t be close, “no matter which way it goes.”
Parsch, a 61-year-old substitute teacher who says she’s lived in the township for 35 years and plans to vote no, led an effort to get the question on the ballot after the township board approved the project.
“We’re hoping that people we talked to before, the people who said they wanted to vote for this, actually show up and vote,” Parsch said.
More than 120 residents signed Parch’s petition to get the question on the ballot after her and others began knocking on doors last year.
“It was about more than just the turbines,” she said. “It was about having a say about where you live. … That was what I heard last summer, that people wanted their say.”
Parsch, whose husband breeds cattle and is a former dairy farmer, says the township should stay a quiet, rural farming community, and that the $9 million revenue officials say turbines brought last year is a “spit in the bucket compared to what farmers bring in.”
But regardless of how people vote, “they need to be proactive in their township,” she said.
“Show up at meetings, let yourself be heard,” she said. “At this point, we’ve done what we can do.”
DTE also wants residents to get the facts and reach out to the utility and officials if they have questions.
“I’m not saying ‘Well, go read your ordinance,’ but there are some things that they can talk to with a board member, a planning commission member, and get the facts versus what they hear somebody saying on their porch,” Wagner said.
Ballot language will read: “The Meade Township Board approved an ordinance amendment to establish a wind energy overlay district on November 11, 2014. This approval will allow the development of a wind energy project to continue in Meade Township. Should this ordinance amendment be approved?”
An update on project details, according to DTE:
• Up to 58 turbines – 48 in Meade, six in Colfax and four in Chandler townships.
• If approved, construction could start as early as August.
• About 100 landowners signed up to participate.
• Turbine setbacks from non-participating property lines would be 630 feet; other limits place turbines about a quarter mile from homes.
• It is a $214 million project.
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