MOORE TWP. – Voters head to the polls here Nov. 3, to decide the fate of the township’s new wind energy ordinance.
The ballot language will state: “On May 6,2015 the Moore Township Board adopted an amendment to the Moore Township Zoning Ordinance that would allow the development of utility grid wind energy systems as a use permitted after special approval in the agricultural residential zoning district in Moore Township. Should this amendment be approved?”
Raymond Ellis submitted petitions requesting a referendum on the issue in June.
The petitioners object to the setback distances the township board approved for wind turbines. The new setbacks are 750 feet from the turbine and the property line of residents who do not have turbines. Earlier the planning commission had recommended a setback of 1,295 feet.
“Because these developer friendly ordinances measure the turbine setback distances from neighboring homes rather than property lines, property owners who have not chosen to lease their property to Invenergy are essentially being forced…to donate their private property to Invenergy to be used as an uncompensated nuisance and safety easement without their consent,” said Ellis.
Why did the township change the planning commission’s recommendation?
“We changed one…of the five setbacks. We had an agreement that it was a little too restrictive,” stated Township Supervisor Greg Dorman.
“It was a 4-1 vote. The person who was against the ordinance the way it is now, wanted 1,000 feet for the non-participating. Then they couldn’t build them…You can’t risk having it thrown out by the state. I do not want the state coming in and doing the zoning for me,” Dorman said.
“I think it is a happy medium. Some people are against the windmills completely. But you’ve got to be reasonable, you can’t give one guy control over another’s property…We’re trying to balance it between those who are dead set against the windmills and those who want thousands. Even the windmill company is not happy, they’d like to see less restrictions,” he noted.
“The planning commission had lots of public meetings. A lot of outsiders who were against the windmills came and created such a toxic atmosphere some people were afraid to say anything,” Dorman added.
He said the township will have to pay the full cost for the referendum because no county, Michigan or federal election is planned for November in Moore. County Clerk Denise McGuire estimated the cost for the township at about $3,500 based on the number of residents who voted in the last election.
The wind energy company, Invenergy, which is offering easement payments to landowners with turbines and neighbor payments to other local property owners, issued a statement about the referendum:
“Invenergy has been actively engaging residents and groups to discuss the benefits of the wind project for many months. Our support is growing daily as we reach out to local school officials, law enforcement and small business owners. This project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will inject more than $10 million in new revenue into the community in the first two years of the project alone…It is important that Moore Township residents who value the broad benefits of this project get out and vote yes on November 3.”
“The report (commissioned by the Sanilac Coalition for Wind and Jobs to measure the impacts of the project on the community) found that the Sanilac Wind Energy Center could deliver an additional $2.3 million annually in increased revenue through local property taxes paid by the developer to support local schools and government services, as well as more than $1.6 million annually in extra income for local landowners over the life of the project,” said Erin Kricher, manager overseeing the development of the Sanilac Wind Energy Center.
Turbine property taxes do not flow into the schools operating funds. County Administrator Kathy Dorman explained turbine property taxes do go toward school debt millage as well as Intermediate School District funds, all local special millages such as the road commission, in addition to county, city, village and township coffers.
The company pays a 6-mill education tax that goes to the state.
Invenergy has been holding open houses about the Sanilac Wind Energy proposal at The Dining Room restaurant from 11 a.m. -1 p.m. on Wednesdays for several weeks.
Invenergy LLC., a Chicago-based firm, has a broker signing up easements for wind turbines in Moore, Argyle and Lamotte townships. The company is the nation’s largest independent wind power generation firm and has developed 51 wind farms, including a large one in Gratiot County, which began commercial operation in June 2012.
Invenergy is planning to locate Sanilac Wind Energy Center with a capacity of 200 mega watts on approximately 25,000 acres.
Argyle Township voters will also decide the issue of wind turbines in their township, but not until May.
Argyle petitions were not turned in early enough to be on the November ballot, and the state is only allowing school issues on the March Presidential Primary ballot.
Argyle Township Clerk Ed Pfaff stated the petitioners object to wind turbines in general, and the smaller setbacks in particular. If the township used the larger setbacks, he said the energy company couldn’t put hardly any turbines in Argyle.
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