HAZELTON TWP. – Wind turbines dominated discussion during the June 12 meeting of the Hazelton Township board. About a dozen residents attended the meeting – some invited guests with firsthand knowledge of the impact of wind turbines on a community.
Hazelton Township Supervisor James Sheridan opened the public discussion by stating he told Richard White, “We were thinking of 40 decibels or less and a quarter-mile setback.”
White responded, “The purpose of these regulations is to protect the public. Any person on the township board should remove themselves if they have a conflict of interest.”
He went on to say he supports the maximum noise level of 40 decibels. As far as a setback, he recommends 2,500 ft. for those benefiting from the wind turbines and 3,200 feet setback for those who don’t benefit.
Sheridan responded, “The setbacks are a little further than we recommended. Our attorney tells us it would have to be reasonable.”
White responded, “These [recommendations] are right out of MSU (Michigan State University).”
Sheridan said, “I asked the county clerk if it was possible to have an election [on the wind turbine issue]. She said it would.” Registered voters would have to petition to place it on the ballot.
Hazelton Township resident Pat Mulcahy said, “We need to think about now and the future.”
Hazelton Township resident Jody Yaklin told the township board, “Protect our homes, our health.”
She researched the impact of wind turbines on property values and found an independent study performed in Tipton County, Ind. The study showed that properties located within two miles of a wind turbine had a 25 percent reduction in property value.
“If your property is worth nothing, you can’t sell it and buy another home,” Yaklin said. She asked the township board to protect their property values.
Sheridan responded, “We’re gathering data and trying to make [good decisions for the community]. So, you’re in agreement with the setbacks?”
Yaklin said, “Yes.”
Mulcahy expressed concern over the influence of farmers in Rush Township, who have already been receiving rent checks from a wind turbine company.
Sheridan responded, “Oh yes, they’ve been getting rent for quite a few years.”
White expressed concern about conflict of-interest with regard to board members.
Sheridan responded, “There are a lot of signs out there saying, ‘No wind turbines’. We’re trying to do the right thing.”
Almer Township, Tuscola County, resident/ retired school teacher Norm Stephens was invited to the Hazelton Township Board meeting by a resident. Stephens began by listing some of the topics he recommends the township address in its wind energy ordinance.
He explained radar-activated lights have been approved by the FFA, so the wind turbine lights don’t have to be on all night. They’ve been able to eliminate the problem of shadow flicker. He recommends writing “zero shadow flicker” into the ordinance. The township can also require the use of heated turbine blades to prevent the problem of ice throw during the winter.
Stephens advised, “You build an ordinance for what you want.” He talked about the importance of using very specific technical terminology to specify the maximum number of decibels allowed as Leq or LMax. Stephens explained that even though Almer Township specified a maximum of 40 decibels in its ordinance, NextEra is challenging it in court, saying NextEra can average the sound level, which means the sound level could well exceed 45 decibels.
Stephens talked about the May 2 election in Huron County where voters rejected wind energy overlay proposals by both Huron Wind LLC (1,120 yes/1,934 no) and DTE Energy (1,110 yes/1,923 no).
Stephens said, “The pro-wind forces spent $875,000 on ads promoting wind in Huron and Tuscola counties, while residents spent a mere $3,715. For every dollar spent by citizens to fight wind, the wind industry spent $235. They still lost.”
On that same election day, Tuscola County’s Almer Township voters turned away a weak wind ordinance; 55 percent to 45 percent.
He also said, “There have been 13 [wind] referendums in Michigan and in every case, people said ‘no.’ Whenever there is a vote of the people anywhere in Michigan, wind loses.”
Stephens cautioned Hazelton Township officials against trusting the representatives of the wind companies. He attended an Almer Township Board meeting when a NextEra representative was asked how many wind turbines his company was proposing for their township. Stephens said, the representative responded, “I have no idea.” However, early the next morning Stephens discovered that the information was on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website; indicating 29 wind turbines were proposed for Almer Township. They ended up backing it down to 19.
“They’ll say anything to get it approved,” Stephens said.
He advised the Hazelton Township Board to change the quarter-mile minimum distance buffer to specify a minimum of 5.5 times the height to the highest tip of the blade, for example; since it’s a 600-foot turbine today, it could be a 1,000-ft. tall wind turbine tomorrow.
Stephens told the Hazelton Township Board, and all those attending the June 12 meeting, there are 30 townships/ counties in the state of Michigan that have wind turbines.
“All 30 have some form of conflict of-interest at the planning commission, board, or zoning board of appeals level,” he said.
He urged the board to require officials at every level to publicly declare if they have a conflict-of-interest and recuse themselves from voting on wind turbines if they do have a conflict.
Supervisor Sheridan asked, “Has the conflict-of-interest been tested in court?”
Yaklin asked if anyone on the Hazelton Township Board has a conflict of-interest on this issue. Sheridan told her that whether anyone on the board had signed a contract would be a private matter.
Yaklin responded, “Or [someone] is planning to profit from it.”
Stephens warned township residents about officials who have a conflict of interest, but won’t disclose it.
Sheridan said, “We’re definitely going to have to disclose it.”
See next week’s Tri-County Citizen for Part II of this article.