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Isabella Co. wind energy meeting filled by concerned public

A crowded room spilling out into the halls of the Isabella County Building was the scene Thursday night.

It’s all about wind turbines, hundreds of them.

Apex Clean Energy, a wind energy company, is working with Isabella County to install around 200 turbines.

People on both sides of the issue had a lot to say about it to the planning commission tonight.

“Can it really be called rural anymore when everywhere one looks, there is a 200-foot turbine,” said Ray Johnson, reading a letter from a member of the public.

A flood of farmers and more gathered in the commission chambers to the point they couldn’t fit any more.

Many watched from the hallway.

“You have pledged to work with the public and educate the public, while providing quality service,” said one man during public comment. “If that were the case, the public would not be here this evening.”

Six ordinances set by the planning commission were on the agenda for amending, including lowering the sound output of turbines, and making lights on towers turn on automatically for passing planes, only – and most of all, pushing towers further back from homes.

A buzz of concern still rose from many.

“In 32 years we have planted more than 32 trees on our plot,” Johnson said, reading from another letter. “If Apex goes forward with this project, we will see 200 giant turbines for the rest of our lives.”

Apex Clean Energy also spoke, against the possible changes.

“You heard from the public and actually strengthened the ordinance to help the Isabella Community,” said Scott Hawking, Apex. “That is the science that is making you second guess your actions?”

“It’s going to put revenue into the school district, fix the roads, bridges,” Dale Finnerty says. “We see it as a win-win.”

Dale Finnerty owns a beef farm in Nottawa Township.

He sees the advantages.

“Why not sell your wind, right?” Finnerty says. “I see their point but back in 2008, the county already zoned this area and that’s what we are trying to keep.”

Still, others say they want Apex to slow down, and others to do their homework.

“I saw a sign that said learn before you sign,” said a Nottawa Township woman named Diane. “They’ve never been answered.”