Voters in Bridgehampton and Marion townships will decide if recent zoning amendments related to proposed wind farm developments should be approved or rescinded.
Citizens in both townships placed the zoning changes on the Aug. 2 primary ballot through referendum petitions.
The zoning amendments in both townships are connected to plans by energy giant Exelon Corporation for wind farm development in Custer, Bridgehampton, Marion and Washington townships.
In Marion, the referendum was prompted by the township board’s approval of an expanded wind overlay district to allow for additional turbines.
In Bridgehampton, the issue is a change in the notification procedure for property owners regarding special land use permits.
The Bridgehampton referendum was spearheaded by township resident Roger Knight.
“There is a good reason I challenged the ordinance change for notification of special land use permit,” said Knight. “Our current ordinance states the parties involved are to get notified by mail, property posting, and hand delivery of notification at least 15 days before the special land use hearing. The new notice states the same except there would be no hand delivery.
“With the way the existing township board and Exelon have tried to force these turbines in our township through conflict of interest and no public knowledge, I believe having to hand deliver a notification is very important. Exelon even sued Bridgehampton Township for superintending control of our planning commission to force their agenda. However, thanks to solid legal work they lost that suit. These are exactly the type of situations that we need hand delivery of notification to our residents. This is our township and we need to operate it the way we see fit. No one has more of a vested interested in Bridgehampton Township than its residents.”
A spokesperson for Exelon, Kristen Otterness, is asking voters to vote yes Aug. 2, and support the new notification rule.
“Voting yes on the Bridgehampton Township referendum would mean the township could provide notice for public hearings through ads in local newspapers and by mail in accordance with the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. This would apply to all special land use applications and is not specific to a wind energy facility.”
While the Bridgehampton referendum may not be specific to wind farms, the one in Marion Township is.
And Otterness says there are strong reasons for voters to approve the township board’s decision to expand the overlay district.
“Voting yes on the Marion Township referendum will allow 24 turbines to be approved, in addition to the 16 already approved, so the Michigan Wind 3 project can move forward as proposed and bring millions in economic benefits to the township and Sanilac County.
“The project is expected to generate more than $20 million in tax revenue for Sanilac County over its operational life.”
Jon Block, a member of the Marion Township Planning Commission, argues that voters should reject the expanded windmill district.
“On January 20th the Marion Township Board voted to expand the wind overlay district to accommodate a new wind park by Exelon,” said Block. “That decision was referendumed for the people to decide. By voting yes August 2nd it means you want the district created and turbines placed. By voting no it means you do not want the district created and no turbines placed there.
“Before any districts are created or any shovels put in the dirt the people of Marion Township need to take a thorough look at the facts of what life would be like if Michigan Wind 3 was built as planned. Noise levels in your backyards increased by more than 2.5 times its current level. Shadow flicker in your windows in the morning and in the evening. Gone the picturesque landscape of your agricultural community, replaced with 500 foot structures spinning in your sunrise and sunset.
“Exelon will tell you that it will bring money, true but how much and at what cost…Make no mistake there is no such thing as a free lunch.”
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