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Petition circulating on wind referendum

HURON COUNTY – Residents of county-zoned townships may get a chance to speak out about wind turbines without fear of angering friends and neighbors.

Petitioners are collecting signatures in an attempt to reject the wind overlay district county commissioners adopted Oct. 24 in a split vote. The district, which comprises sections of Bloomfield, Dwight, Lincoln and Sigel townships, was requested by Detroit Edison. The company has previously stated it plans to site 50 to 70 within the overlay.

The notice of intent to file a referendum is dated Nov. 10 and signed by Bloomfield Township resident Susan Lange, who previously expressed concerns about turbines during public meetings.

During a public hearing held by the board of commissioners in August at the Expo Center, Lange said she fears her two sons, who have autism, will not be able to tolerate a turbine near their home.

“What happens if my sons cannot stand to be in our home?” she asked the board.

Per MCL 125.3402, petitioners must collect 807 valid signatures by Dec. 8, which is 30 days after the resolution’s publication date. The number represents 15 percent of residents of county-zoned townships who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election.

Planning and Zoning Director Jeff Smith said the signatures must come from registered voters who reside within the 16 county-zoned townships, which include Bingham, Bloomfield, Brookfield, Dwight, Fairhaven, Gore, Grant, Hume, Lincoln, McKinley, Rubicon, Sebewaing, Sheridan, Sherman, Sigel and Winsor.

County Corporate Counsel Steve Allen said he has reviewed the notice, and he believes it is valid. He said whoever drafted it used language that mirrors the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act and related appellate cases, and he feels it will stand if challenged in court.

“You’re supposed to construe these intent for referendums liberally to facilitate allowing residents the right to vote,” he said.

Allen said he regrets that the issue has divided the community, but he looks forward to learning the residents’ true opinion. Many people, he said, hesitate to voice their view regarding wind turbines because they fear angering neighbors.

“Put the people in the voting booth, so nobody has to know how they feel. If nobody has to know but the ballot box, we will get a sense of what the citizens of Huron County really want,” he said.