GAGETOWN – Officials in Tuscola County’s Elmwood Township have enacted a one-year moratorium on construction of wind turbines, citing a need to “better protect the public health, safety and welfare” of residents.
Chris Graff, supervisor, Elmwood Township, said the move was proactive in light of plans for wind farms for Elmwood’s neighboring communities – including Ellington Township to the south and Huron County to the north.
The ordinance was approved and effective March 3. The township doesn’t have turbines currently, but Graff said the township has been approached by energy companies “off-and-on.”
Among other things, the moratorium states, “the township wishes to consider amendments to its regulations concerning Wind Energy Conversion Systems to better protect the public health, safety, and welfare of Township residents and requires sufficient time for the enactment of such amendments.”
Graff said officials approved the moratorium to ensure the best decisions were made for the 1,200 residents in the township.
“We thought it would be a good idea to take a time-out, reevaluate where we’re at, and try to make an educated decision on what we had,” Graff told The Advertiser Monday.
Graff said Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources Inc. – which plans the $200 million Tuscola III wind farm in neighboring Ellington, Almer, and Fairgrove townships – has not contacted any township officials to include Elmwood in plans.
Huron County’s Brookfield Township – to the immediate north of Elmwood Township – already has wind turbines as part of the DTE Energy-owned Brookfield Wind Park (formerly known as Pheasant Run II) and another wind farm called Pheasant Run I that is owned by a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources Inc.
As The Advertiser was the first to report, NextEra plans to build Tuscola III – a wind farm with a price tag of more than $200 million in Almer, Fairgrove, and Ellington townships.
Ellington Township is immediately south of Elmwood Township.
A group of residents in Ellington Township asked officials from that township to consider just a six-month moratorium and consider adjusting noise and setback ordinances put in place just last year and before many became aware of the changes.
At its March 1 meeting, the Ellington Township Board of Trustees was “advised” by an attorney to not take action on a six-month moratorium so the matter died and was deferred to the township planning commission.
The Ellington Township Concerned Citizens plans to make its case to the Ellington Township planning commission at a special meeting planned for tonight.
George Mika, chairman, Ellington Township planning commission, did not return a phone call to The Advertiser Tuesday.
Elmwood’s Graff said the move to put a moratorium in place in Elmwood Township will give the township time to fully evaluate its ordinance and take into consideration residents.
“It’s important for the people of the township because they have to live with (wind turbines),” Graff said. “Regardless of how it turns out, we just felt (a year) is enough time to digest and evaluate where we’re at. I don’t know if six months is enough time.”
Graff said a year made sense given the fact that the board meets once a month. He also said given Elmwood Township’s strategic location in Michigan’s Thumb region – and the latest push by companies like NextEra Energy Resources and DTE Energy to erect more wind turbines in the area – he wouldn’t be surprised if the township is approached soon.
“By the time you meet and make an educated decision by talking to the experts on either side and when you only meet monthly, six months goes by really fast,” Graff said. “When you’re living in an area where they’re at, because they’re so huge, are we trying to be fair?”
Tuscola County Board of Commissioners Member Tom Young – who represents District 1, which includes Elmwood Township – said he supports the Elmwood Township board’s decision.
“I think local townships should have control over if they want windmills in their backyard,” Young said. “If they don’t want them I’m not the person who is going to say ‘Yes, you have to have them.’
“I know it means revenue for the county, but their quality of life has to be their first order of business in their township,” Young said.
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