LINCOLN TOWNSHIP – To say feelings are mixed on a plan to bring 50 to 70 more wind turbines to the area might be an understatement.
Residents met in Lincoln Township this week to voice opinions on DTE Energy’s application for a new wind energy overlay district. A planning area covers more than 39,000 acres and 61 square miles across four townships: 22,080 in Lincoln and 5,760 each in Sigel, Dwight and Bloomfield. DTE says it expects the currently unnamed project to be between 100 and 150 megawatts and 50 to 70 wind turbines.
DTE Project Manager Matt Wagner told township leaders DTE is a long way from submitting a layout and doesn’t have turbine locations, stressing a “much more restrictive” Huron County’s wind energy ordinance that makes it “fairly sparse” as to where turbines can be placed in the township.
However, the entire Lincoln Township Board says it opposes that plan.
A letter dated March 16 and addressed to the county’s Building and Zoning office with a Lincoln Township letterhead, signed by all its board members, has two sentences: “We feel that Huron County has done our part as far as Green Energy. We feel that no additional turbines should be allowed in Huron County.”
Yet four of five Lincoln board members have easement agreements with DTE Energy for the new project, according to an application the utility submitted to the county in late February. That includes Supervisor Melvin Drake, Clerk Irvin Kanaski, Treasurer Patricia Weber and Trustee John Wisneski.
When reached for comment, Kanaski declined a Tribune request for clarification of the township’s letter and further explanation. The township’s supervisor, trustees and treasurer did not return calls seeking comment.
And, at least 13 county and township officials who have a say in DTE’s project also have a lease, easement or agreement with DTE or other wind developers.
That includes Sigel Township Supervisor Richard Maurer and Trustees Brad Essenmacher and Bernard Sweeney; Bloomfield Trustee Frank Kanaski and Clerk Delphine Pawlowski; and three county planners: Chair Clark Brock, Secretary Jeffery Krohn and member Joel Weber.
Dwight is the only locale where none of its officials have a lease, easement or agreement with a developer on file.
Although on March 30 DTE said it had 21,000 acres under contract for wind development with about 100 landowners and is talking with others, public opinion on the project has been split.
Don Rice of Lincoln Township says there are enough wind turbines and “I just enjoy the county the way it is.”
Paul Holz, who according to DTE has 48 acres under easement for the project in Lincoln Township, says opposing plans for more turbines limits the ability for others to “grow our operation.” Some residents this week echoed that concern, claiming it takes away landowner rights.
Chris Wisneski of Kinde said Huron has done its part and that “it’s all you can see,” referring to wind turbines when a driver enters the county from Quanicassee.
Dennis Lasceski of Lincoln Township said everyone has rights, but when if affects neighbors, it’s like “putting someone else in prison.” Lasceski said he’d rather see the beauty of the land and countryside than a “jungle” of wind turbines.
Lincoln officials also heard from Kevon Martis at their Monday night meeting.
Due to the township’s opposition to the project, Martis, director of the activist group Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition based in Blissfield, suggested four actions Lincoln Township could take: help residents collect more than 800 signatures if the county approves DTE’s requested wind overlay district to force a referendum; enact local zoning; regulate a township nuisance noise ordinance, which would also set hours of operation; and/or argue county planners have ignored the county’s master plan mandate to identify appropriate locations for wind development.
County planners at a March 30 meeting decided unanimously to table any action on DTE’s plan, owing to a flood of information and letters they said arrived just before the meeting.
That night, close to 200 people packed into the Huron County Expo Center for the first public glimpse at the project. About 30 spoke during public comment. Planning Chair Clark Brock read as many letters from people who couldn’t attend, sharing split opinions.