Marlette Township will be voting on a wind turbine ordinance, among other updated ordinances, in the upcoming May 2 special election.
The ordinance will allow more opportunity for wind farm development in the township if approved.
After community members opposed the proposed ordinance change, a resident collected signatures and created a petition, causing the township to push the ordinance to a public vote. Only 89 signatures were needed to pass the referendum, but 174 were collected. Tereasa Rumppz, of Marlette Township, initiated the petition. Rumppz could not be reached for comment.
If residents vote ‘yes’ on the referendum, then the new zoning ordinance will be implemented. A ‘no’ vote will keep the current zoning ordinance in place.
Marlette Zoning Administrator Glen Philips said the it will cost between $3,000-$5,000 to host the special election.
“About four years ago we started working on updating our wind ordinance to follow some guidelines and recommendations from similar ordinances,” Philips said. “We can’t zone out turbines, but we wanted to be more fair to the community and also wanted to be reasonable for the wind turbine companies because there are lots of people who want them.”
A vote ‘yes’ means:
- Windmills on residential properties shall be set back from property lines and right-of-ways no less than a distance equal to 125 percent of the height of the structure.
- That would allow the setbacks from non-participating property lines and right-of-ways to increase to 625 feet.
- Setbacks from inhabited structures should be 1,400 feet.
A vote ‘no’ means:
- The township keeps its original ordinance.
- The minimum set-back from any property line or road right-of-way shall be equal to the height of the tower (i.e. turbine, radio tower, etc.).
- Towers can be 500 feet tall, per Michigan law.
The ordinance update was spurred by a wind energy company that was interested in developing a wind farm in Sanilac County.
Invenergy, a Chicago-based energy company, began collecting lease agreements in 2014. Arygle, Lamotte and Moore townships were also part of the proposed project. The company planned to spread its wind farm out across 25,000 acres of private land among the participating townships.
“The last time I talked to (Invenergy) they were pulling out of this area because they were running into too much opposition,” Philips said. “But there are a lot of farmers in our township that already signed leases and agreements with them, so those farmers would lose that extra income.”
Philips said Invenergy will not move forward with the project until the ordinance issue has been settled.
Currently there are two wind projects in Sanilac County – one owned by Exelon and the other owned be DTE Energy. Exelon is in the process of bringing an additional wind farm – Michigan Wind 3 – to the area as well. No turbines have yet to be erected in Marlette Township though.
Philips has observed the political conversation surrounding other wind projects and fears Marlette Township could be headed in the same direction.
Regarding the Michigan Wind 3 project, Exelon sued Bridgehampton Township last spring, stating that the township was depriving the company of its rights to develop the wind farm. But in May 2016, a Sanilac County judge ruled against Exelon, saying it would not force Bridgehampton to hold a public hearing within a certain timeframe to address the wind company’s special land use application.
Similarly, NextEra Energy sued Almer Township regarding the proposed Tuscola Wind III project. The company stated that the township was purposefully trying to prevent the wind project from going forward.
“A township was sued for similar things and unreasonable zoning, and we don’t want that here,” he said. “We tried to propose a pretty standard wind ordinance to be reasonable for all parties.”
Invenergy did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.
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