HURON COUNTY – When many Huron County residents answered a knock on their door in recent months, they were greeted by someone asking them to sign a wind energy-related petition.
And it looks like the drive for signatures will continue in the cold winter weather until the deadline for submission prior to the expected May election.
Huron County Planning Commission officials noted Wednesday that a notice of intent to circulate a petition protesting county approval of a wind overlay district in Sherman and Sigel townships was submitted last month to the Huron County Clerk’s office.
That letter has been received, but not approved, said Huron County Clerk Lori Neal-Wonsowicz.
If it is, once enough valid signatures are gathered from residents in county-zoned townships, that issue would go to referendum this spring, producing a decision by the people on the NextEra Energy Resources project.
A challenge to the Huron County Board of Commissioners’ decision to allow an overlay district in the Filion area will be on the ballot for county-zoned municipalities, Neal-Wonsowicz said.
A total of 1,109 valid signatures were collected, and 807 were necessary to call for the referendum.
In Lincoln Township, a May referendum will take place challenging the Lincoln Township Board of Trustees’ decision to become self-zoned.
Sixty-five good signatures were submitted, and 38 were needed.
Also part of the proposed district by NextEra is self-zoned Sand Beach Township.
NextEra officials say that 250 signatures were gathered there toward a petition to repeal changes to the county’s noise ordinance. NextEra officials have said this would prohibit wind development in the township.
Although NextEra officials have said that the signatures were submitted, Neal-Wonsowicz said that she hasn’t seen a petition. Sand Beach Clerk Linda Buchholz could not be reached for comment regarding whether or not she has received it.
Sherman Township Clerk Kathi Jahn said that no petition has been submitted there protesting that township board’s decision to take back its zoning.
The Sherman Township Board of Trustees passed the resolution forming a planning commission Dec. 6. The ordinance is effective 63 days after the resolution is passed.
The Michigan Bureau of Elections schedule has not been released, Neal-Wonsowicz said, so she is unsure of exactly when the deadline and referendum will take place.
County Corporate Counsel Steve Allen previously told the Tribune how the petition/referendum process works:
• Within seven days after a law’s publication, a letter of intent to petition must be filed.
• The petitioner then has 30 days to circulate the petition.
• The amount of signatures required for a petition goes by the number of registered voters within a jurisdiction at the time of the last gubernatorial election. Fifteen percent of that number is the requisite number of signatures.
At a recent Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting, a Lincoln Township resident called on board members to help gather signatures for the Sherman/Sigel overlay petition.
Denise Rice distributed a packet for each board member on Dec. 29 containing petitions, an informational letter and an instruction sheet.
She asked that they each collect 50 signatures.
“This will give you a chance to go out and see what the average person living in the countryside has to say,” she said.
Sherman and Sigel townships account for 15,480 acres and 2,560 acres of the proposed NextEra district, respectively.
Sand Beach Township, and Delaware Township in Sanilac County account for the remainder of the proposed project.
For the DTE overlay district, acres in the overlay district per township include 16,900 in Lincoln, 4,100 in Sigel, 2,500 in Bloomfield and 2,000 in Dwight.
The 16 county-zoned townships are: Bingham, Bloomfield, Brookfield, Dwight, Fairhaven, Gore, Grant, Hume, Lincoln, McKinley, Rubicon, Sebewaing, Sheridan, Sherman, Sigel and Winsor townships.