SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, MI – A one-year moratorium has been enacted on a proposed wind energy farm to allow officials to check on regulations before making a decision on whether or not to allow work to move forward.
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners approved the moratorium last month, but the Virginia-based company that’s spent time chatting with local officials and residents has said it will continue to push forward with plans for the Maple Rapids Wind project.
Apex Energy has floated the idea of up to 60, 600-foot tall turbines strewn across thousands of acres of leased property in Fairfield, Rush, Owosso and Middlebury townships and touted clean energy as part of their pitch.
Despite the recent decision by the board and planning commission, Apex spokesman Albert Jongewaard said the company the company isn’t ready to scrap the proposal.
“I think we remain very interested in the project,” he said.
Apex acquired the project from BP Wind Energy, North America, Inc. in May 2014. They had hoped to begin construction in fall 2018 or spring 2019, with completion by late fall or early winter 2019.
The doors were opened to such a project in Shiawassee County in 2008 after government officials at the time laid out the blueprint in a zoning ordinance for regulation of devices such as turbines.
Commissioners made the recent moratorium decision prior to a new board sworn in this month. The board includes four new members.
District 3 Commissioner Gary Holzhausen voted for the pause, pointing out the board wants to discuss the pros and cons of the project.
“These wind people say that everything is going to be super-duper,” he said. “There’s a lot of people against it too. We’ve got to hear both sides. It’s something completely new.”
The company looks forward to working with land owners and the new board, Jongewaard said, whom have expressed to Apex their interest in taking a look at ordinances and keep the best interest of residents in mind.
Apex has touted the possibility of millions of dollars for property owners and captured tax revenue for the county over the average life of a wind turbine – 20-25 years.
But opponents of the project have argued the size of the turbines would disrupt the rural landscape and impact properties without leases.
Hundreds of residents turned out to a town-hall style meeting in December, prior to the board’s vote, and fell on both sides of the discussion.
Fairfield Township resident and farmer Scott Miller has signed a lease with Apex for part of his farm and called himself a “big proponent” of wind and other forms of renewable energy.
His decision did not come without doing some homework of his own.
Miller traveled to a wind energy farm in Huron County, toured the facilities, spoke with land owners who have and have not signed on for the project.
“I was comfortable with the project and still am comfortable with it,” he said.
But Rush Township resident Mike Bazelides was a proponent for a moratorium and potential vote on the issue.
“I want to protect our area here,” Bazelides said. “People are walking up and down the roads all the time, bicycling, we’re sitting out on our decks. I just think it’s a huge invasion.”
The moratorium would expire in mid-December 2017 if not altered over the course of the year.
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