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Turbine opponents cram zoning meeting to hear Shatto

Nearly 90 people crammed into the community room of the Clinton County Courthouse last Thursday evening, not to see the county’s Planning and Zoning board rule on an issue, but to hear the opinion of perhaps the county’s most prominent business.

Matt Shatto of the Shatto Milk Company spoke to the board on Thursday, September 3, about a proposed wind farm in north-central Clinton County. The project – which is still very much in its initial stages – is proposed by NextEra Energy out of Florida, and could potentially see wind turbines placed in both Clinton and DeKalb Counties.

Currently, NextEra has yet to submit any new applications to Clinton County Planning and Zoning, but it was clear Thursday that the opposition hopes to get out in front of the issue. The majority of those in attendance were wearing red anti-turbine buttons. Zoning Chair Michael Adair took a quick poll of the room and found approximately 75 of those in attendance were opposed to the possible project.

Shatto’s presentation Thursday focused on the alleged adverse affects that come with wind farms, ranging from the physical impact on the human body to the financial pitfalls of those located near farms. He said that the county doesn’t have ordinances in place to protect residents from these alleged effects.

“We believe everyone is welcome in Clinton County,” Shatto told the board, “as long as they don’t negatively impact others.”

Shatto also spoke about Shatto Milk Company, also located in the north-central section of Clinton County. He said the company will be looking to announce two new business expansions in the coming months. In a previous meeting with the Clinton County Commissioners, Shatto had said that if the NextEra project were to come to fruition, it could hamper both the company’s current and future investments in Clinton County.

Shatto capped the presentation with a video featuring Wisconsin residents who ostensibly suffered medical issues after living near a similar project.

Shatto requested that the board remain opposed to the project and institute a one-year moratorium in order to study the issue and pass proper protections, earning a loud ovation from the crowd in the end.

Steve Stengel, a spokesman for NextEra Energy, told The Leader this week that despite the strong opposition turnout at the zoning meeting, it might not have painted a full picture. He said there is still some strong support for the project.

He presented The Leader with results from a recent NextEra-funded survey which found 61 percent of Clinton County respondents said they were in support of the NextEra project. The survey was conducted in August by the independent research firm Fako Research and Strategies, and included 300 registered voters in both Clinton and DeKalb Counties, the majority coming from Clinton County. The survey stated it had a margin of error of 5.62 points.

“Our view is, if you look at the facts, there are hundreds of wind farms comprised of thousands of turbines,” Stengel said, adding that they understand there are some concerns they must address and questions to answer. “We believe it can peacefully coexist within the community.”

In July, the Planning and Zoning Board denied a request from Tower Associates – a subsidiary of NextEra Energy – to build and operate meteorological test towers in northern Clinton County. Since that decision, Tower Associates or Next Era have yet to file an appeal with the county.