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Packed house sees turbines get approved

L’ANSE – The L’Anse Township Board approved ordinances allowing large wind energy conversion (LWEC) systems to be permitted in Forest Resource districts, as well as lowering the minimum blade clearance from 75 feet to 58 feet, as requested by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and Weyerhaeuser.

The minimum blade clearance is the height from the ground when the blade is at its lowest point in rotation. Sean Stocker, project manager for RES, says the lower blade clearance will allow RES to consider larger, “more energetic” turbines and reduce the total number of turbines in the proposed Summit Lake Wind Project.

During public comment before the vote, Friends of the Huron Mountains (FOHM) president Burt Mason questioned the township board’s decision to allow to L’Anse village residents on the township planning board.

“We don’t want to hold anything up, but I would request that you go back and check that Michigan Township Association rule,” Mason said.

The Michigan Township Association (MTA) had informed several members of the community that they believe only one member from the village is allowed to vote on the Planning Commission, and recommended the Township Board consult their attorney. Township Supervisor Peter Magaraggia said their legal counsel interpreted it differently.

“It’s kind of a gray area,” Magaraggia said. “He thought that it was you could have two people.”

Mason also said the vote to lower the minimum blade clearance is illegal because the resolution wasn’t part of the public hearing held on Sept. 27.

Trustee Brian Kissel, who is the liaison to the Planning Commission, disagreed, saying that it was in fact included as part of the public hearing.

The suit surrounds building permits issued for RES meteorological towers in the proposed project area. Mason said they’ve filed a motion to dismiss the suit since building inspector Don Mleko took action on the permits in September. Mason also said he’s asked FOHM to refrain from name calling or singling people out.

Magaraggia acknowledged the legal expense, but defended it.

“When we need legal advice we’re going to get it,” he said. “I don’t want to expose our township to anything that we don’t have to.”

Stocker also defended RES, saying much of the public conversation is happening under the assumption that RES is an untrustworthy corporation.

“That premise is unfair and not based on facts,” he said.