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Ellington Township board enacts 4-month moratorium on wind turbines

ELLINGTON TWP. – The Ellington Township Board of Trustees enacted a four-month moratorium on wind turbines at a special meeting Monday, essentially putting the Tuscola III wind farm project on hold.

In a standing-room only meeting at the Ellington Township Hall, the board voted unanimously in favor of a 120-day moratorium. Duane Lockwood, supervisor, Ellington Township, excused himself from the meeting.

Before voting on the moratorium, the board also voted unanimously to ask the Ellington Township Planning Commission to evaluate where turbines should be allowed in relation to property lines.

The crowd – made up of many from the group known as the Ellington-Almer Township Concerned Citizens – clapped several times and several thanked Ellington Township board members for what some called “taking a step back” to reconsider the township’s wind ordinance.

“I’m going to hope that the process worked as it should and that the political pressure got to those who are elected and they listened to their people,” said Josh Nolan, an attorney representing the group known as the Ellington-Almer Township Concerned Citizens, after the meeting.

Michael Wagner, board trustee who chaired the meeting after Lockwood left the table, said after the meeting that he wouldn’t answer any questions from The Advertiser.

“Alls I can say is it was a team effort, the whole board was behind it, I’m glad people are happy,” he said.

Ellington Township – along with parts of Almer and Fairgrove townships – is where Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources L.L.C. plans to build Tuscola III, a wind farm with a price tag of more than $200 million.

The company filed plans with the FAA March 15 that show where 60 wind turbines could be located. Officials from NextEra Energy Resources told The Advertiser that the FAA could take up to two months to reply. The FAA must determine if wind turbines would pose hazards for aircraft in relation to the Caro airport.

The group of concerned citizens has been vocally opposed to existing wind ordinances in the area, consistently showing up in the last four months at planning commission and full board meetings held by elected and appointed officials and voicing their concerns.

Those meetings included Ellington Township Planning Commission meetings where the appointed body was asked to review existing wind ordinance. The commission ultimately decided to recommend the ordinance stay intact as is.

However, it once again is being sent back to the planning commission for review with one key difference – this time the commission has clear direction from the board on what to review with regard to wind turbine setbacks and any potential impact on health, safety and welfare of those who live in and around the machines.

“They maybe didn’t have a clear direction of what was expected of them, now they do, and hopefully we’ll see them act in accordance with that directive,” Nolan said.

Brian Garner, Ellington Township attorney, said after Monday’s meeting that Wagner was behind the push to review the township’s wind ordinance.

“Mike (Wagner) felt strong about revisiting it,” Garner said. “Mike, personally, was doing some research and he felt that we should look into it some more so he asked me the procedure and I said we have to have a special meeting.”

The moratorium put in place while that review occurs can essentially be lifted at any time, Garner said.

Still, the decision to once again send the ordinance back to the planning commission drew praise from many who have been outspoken about the way things have been done with regard to reviewing wind ordinances in the last few months.

Group members have consistently maintained they aren’t anti-wind turbine, but do oppose putting wind turbines in areas that they have said they view as being too close to other properties and houses.

“We really do appreciate you guys,” said Mike Patullo, a member of the concerned citizens group. “I have to say, it’s been a tough four months – it seems like four years.”

Patullo said group members would be willing to help with research the planning commission needs as it reevaluates the Ellington Township wind ordinance.

“Thank you very much for doing this today,” Patullo said.