Note: This report was updated on Thursday, Aug. 16 to include comments from DTE Energy and Planning Commission member Terry Miller.
MONITOR TWP., MI – Many residents of Bay County’s Monitor Township turned out Tuesday, Aug. 14, to voice opposition to wind turbines being built in the area and how the township’s planning commission has handled the process.
After hearing the complaints, the planning commission voted unanimously to create a committee to look at the issue of wind turbines in the township. The committee will consist of nine members: three commission members, three residents who are for the wind turbines and three who are against them.
DTE Energy wants to bring renewable wind energy to the township near Saginaw Bay like it tried previously in nearby Beaver and Williams townships. The project has met with opposition from citizens, who cite a number of issues such as noise problems and potential harm to wildlife.
On June 25, the Monitor Board of Trustees voted to have a moratorium on wind turbine development to allow the planning commission to take more time to review a revised ordinance.
Brandon Krause, register of deeds for Bay County, attended the Tuesday meeting as a resident and said that many people are upset about the way the process has been handled.
“What everybody is upset about is definitely that the way this was handled,” he said. “It’s very important that we are getting our voices heard, that’s number one.”
Mark Suchy, a farmland owner in the township, said he does not have a problem with the turbines themselves but that there were no avenues for public input.
“We are not saying we object to the wind turbines,” Suchy said. “DTE Energy took the whole board out on a bus trip to Wheeler, Michigan, and showed them the wind turbines – wined and dined them – anyway, and they came back and threw in some guidelines and came up with ordinances and guidelines without any public input.”
Another attendee of the event, Mark Wahl, said some residents also have concerns about the wind turbines having a detrimental effect on their quality of life.
“There’s a lot of research out on sound, noise, quality of life, the lights flickering (off the turbines),” Wahl said, adding that some of the issues he cares about are the complications the height of the turbines can create for hospital helicopters or planes.
Another topic some residents had concerns with is planning commission member Terry Miller, who is a vice chair on the Michigan Environmental Council. He was questioned by Krause and others if he would remove or recuse himself from a vote.
Krause also alleged that he spoke at a Beaver Township meeting as an elected official that the turbines were coming to Monitor Township even before there was a vote on it.
Miller said that he thinks the discourse on wind energy has been disappointing because opponents are using fear tactics to scare others into being against it. One tactic is a flyer that purports to show the adverse size and effects of windmills.
Miller added that he was being accused of being biased because some township residents were at a Beaver Township meeting where he said he was on the planning commission and said that wind turbines were coming to Monitor Township. They said he acted in an official capacity as a commissioner and not as a private resident, which he denies.
“There is not a great deal of civility that is there, I think that’s (the opposition’s) motive of operation, to silence,” he said. “The other side is not willing to listen and the trustees are running very scared, they’ve been threatened with recall.”
Planning Commission Chairman Jim Bellor said there is a hearing Aug. 27 at Monitor Township Hall to determine if Miller’s positions represent a conflict of interest.
“They are saying it’s a conflict of interest because he sits on two other boards that represent wind and energy,” Bellor said.
Across the state there are currently 20 wind farms in rural committees in the Thumb and in Sanilac, Saginaw, Bay, Huron Tuscola, Gratiot and Isabella counties.
In a statement sent to MLive on Aug. 16, DTE Energy said it is in the evaluation stage of a potential wind energy project in Bay County and is currently talking to landowners, elected and appointed officials and members of the community.
The statement also said in addition to payments to land owners for acquiring easements, wind projects bring economic benefits such as job creation and a new source of tax revenue.
Those who are interested in being a part of the upcoming Wind Energy Fact-Finding Advisory Committee in Monitor Township are asked to visit online or call (989)-684-7203 for more information.
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