JUNIATA TOWNSHIP – The Juniata Township Planning Commission will host a hearing at 9 a.m. Saturday at the township hall, 1971 Ringle Road, regarding special land use permits (SLUP) for NextEra Energy Resources LLC.
The permits are for NextEra’s proposed Pegasus Wind Energy Center project to build 31 turbines in Juniata Township, and the plan includes building 32 turbines in Fairgrove Township.
The commission was to have addressed SLUP requests at a November 20 hearing, but instead rescheduled because it was felt there wasn’t enough time for the commission to explore the request and to let residents know about the issue.
Even though the predicted temperature for Saturday is 20 degrees with possible snow showers, the meeting is expected to be held on the hall grounds in tents with heaters.
“The tent is because a large turnout is expected and the hall isn’t very big,” said township Trustee Elaine Schunn. “It was felt that a church wasn’t proper or in a business that sells liquor.”
Some members of the Concerned Citizens of Juniata Township, who are opposed or concerned about wind development, feel using a tent in the winter is a ploy to keep residents away.
The township hall is in a former one-room country school in the un-incorporated community of Watrousville.
The Juniata citizen’s group formed in November with some guidance from members of the Almer and Ellington group that opposed NextEra’s wind project in those townships, explained Brenda Bigham, who has lived in Juniata Township all her life and is a member of the local concerned citizens group.
The citizens group’s mission is to bring awareness and transparency to NextEra Energy’s request for SLUP to build wind towers and to insure decisions protect the health, safety and well being of the community, Bigham said.
According to NextEra’s Manager of Communications Bryan Garner, the construction of 63 turbines in those two townships is about a $200 million investment, would generate about 150 million megawatts of power, and the plan is to have that project completed by the end of 2018.
“The Pegasus Energy Center will tie in with our Tuscola Wind I and Tuscola Wind II in Tuscola County, and with our Pheasant Run (wind) farm in Huron County,” explained Garner.
The total height of the turbines in the Pegasus project from the bottom to the tip of the blade is just under 500 feet. Height is a concern because of Tuscola Area Airport traffic.
The turbines will exceed the ordinance height limitations, so some or all of the SLUP may be denied, but there is an appeals process.
Because the new wind farm could be an area of contention, Tuscola County Commissioners reviewed the Tuscola Area Airport Zoning Board of Appeals (AZBA) by-laws that were drafted in 2011, and the fact that the five-member board appointed then only met once. So to be ready for any possible appeals, AZBA board members are being contacted if they are still interested in serving.
According to Tuscola County Controller Mike Hoagland, NextEra may have researched alternatives to height limitation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and in some cases the FAA will make provisions to allow turbine construction with alternative land instruction to pilots to avoid turbine locations.
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