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Wind turbine zoning researcher to help Sherwood Township

SHERWOOD TOWNSHIP – After months or work on a proposed ordinances to regulate wind turbines in Sherwood Township, the Planning Commission, Wednesday night, will hold another special public hearing.

Because the crowds have packed the township hall for past meetings, it will move its hearing to the Union City Middle School for the expected crowd.

It will also call on an expert to advise it, taking planning commission questions for Dr. Sarah Mills, which the commission hopes will answer contradictory and confusing claims of both sides of the wind turbine issue.

Dr. Mills is the senior project manager and researcher at the Ford School’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, and is helping community planners and elected officials sort through the noise and make decisions based on data and research.

Mills has surveyed farmers and residents across the state and studied the local impact of wind turbines in different types of Michigan communities.

“The goal is to share the pros and cons of wind energy so communities can make their own decisions based on facts,” Mills said, according to the school. “I’m not there to tell them what to do. But I really love that I get to do this because I grew up on a farm, I know what these communities are going through, and I feel I get to give back a little with the information I share.”

Her research on wind energy takes a different angle than most of the academic world, and has practical value for residents and elected officials. “Most people approach wind energy from a global sustainability perspective and that’s important, but I want to understand more fully the impact on communities where they are located,” she said.

Her first research looked at the impact on farm finances as a drought proof income.

A second survey funded by the Mott Foundation did a more intensive review.

“Wind turbines fit better in some communities than others, and it largely boils down to what their planning and development goals are,” said Mills. “Generally, if you want to preserve agriculture, maintain working farms, and keep young people in the community, wind energy fits well with that. If your goals or plans are to develop more tourism or residential property, wind energy isn’t as compatible. Wind turbines are not silent, they have lights, and they might deter people from buying a vacation home in the area.”

Dr. Mills will present her reports and answer question Wednesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Union City Middle School during the Planning Commission special meeting. Commissioner questions will be answered before the forum is open to the public.