TUSCOLA COUNTY – Almer Charter Township officials moved forward with necessary steps for development of a wind farm, and some residents have taken steps to oppose it.
Wednesday township officials selected the engineering firm of Spicer Group of Saginaw to help the township’s planning commission through the process.
“Spicer will help with the engineering of the wind farm, reviewing the permits for the turbines, and with public hearings,” said Almer Charter Township Clerk Peggy Reavey. “The cost for everything is estimated at $55,000.”
NextEra Energy Resources is in the process of developing Tuscola III Wind Energy Center in Almer, Ellington, and Fairgrove townships. The $200 million project will have 52 turbines in those three township with 17 in Fairgrove and 19 each in Ellington and Almer.
The project is expect to start and finish in 2017, said NextEra’s Manager of Communications Bryan Garner.
However, there is a faction in Almer and Ellington that is opposed to the project. Enough signatures were gather for a referendum to give Almer residents an opportunity to vote for or against township officials’ decision on the project.
“There were 110 signatures needed to take it to a vote. There were pages with 206 signatures turn it,” Reavey said. “There were a few signatures that didn’t qualify, but there was more than enough that did.”
According to Tuscola County Clerk Jodi Fetting, the next election that the issue could be on the ballot is May 2017.
“I cannot answer what impact the referendum could have on the project. That issue is beyond my scope,” Fetting said. “All I deal with is the aspect of the election and election law. The timing puts the issue on the ballot next spring.”
A referendum vote is done when residents what to challenge something that was done by their elected officials.
According the Garner, the referendum shouldn’t have an impact.
“We are sensitive to the needs of those in the townships who have voiced concerns, and changes were made to the ordinance with that in mind,” Garner said.
NextEra’s application in Almer Township meets or exceeds all of the current requirements of the current wind ordinance and in some cases is more restrictive than required, Garner explained.
And, in Ellington Township the permit application meets or exceeds Huron County’s setback and sound requirements, which was requested by some residents.
NextEra currently has two wind farms in the area. The Tuscola-Bay Wind farm, which is primarily located in Gilford Township with a few turbines in Bay County, and the Tuscola Wind II that is located in the townships of Gilford, Akron, Fairgrove and Juniata.
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