BRANCH COUNTY – After losing the election to force Union Township to adopt a zoning code, Concerned Citizens of Branch County urged Branch County Commissioners, at its Tuesday meeting, to create a county wide wind turbine zoning ordinance.
With over two dozen supporters in attendance, Anna Keim told the board, “we are concerned that Union Township, with no zoning in place, would have dire consequences with regard to the health, safety and welfare of its residents, but particularly those who have said no this project.”
County Administrator Bud Norman said before the commission considers any action it would send the issue to the County Planning Commission.
Created in 2011 under the state planning enabling act, the group rarely meets. A tentative meeting is set for Dec. 12. Concerned Citizens have been fighting plans by DTE Ene rgy, which has signed leases for at least 22,000 acres of 40,000 acres it said it needs for 50 to 60 turbines.
Most of the project leases cover Sherwood, Matteson, Batavia, and Union Townships. All but Union have zoning.
The Union Township declined to take any action on zoning until voting took place on the proposal put forward by the citizens group. It failed by 268 to 243 votes with just over 33 percent voting.
The issue raised by the group were echoed by Shelly Barkley and Heather Russell.
Barkley lives in Matteson Township but just three miles from the Union Township line onBabcock Road. Even with zoning in her township she is concerned by the height of the wind turbines which could be on the township line.
Barkley wants a county wide zoning ordinance to protect against an unzoned Union Township. “Even three miles from my house I will have a view. It affects my property values, my health, and the health of others,” Barkley said.
Russell said she and her husband moved from strictly zoned Batavia Township to Day Road in Union Township. “It was a culture shock,” Russell said.
“It is the property values and the health and safety of our family as well as that of our neighbors,” she said.
The Union Township board refused to take any action, waiting for the vote.
Keim said, “The Union Township board has active elected officials with conflicts of interest as leaseholders of the utility company actively pursuing our community.”
Supervisor Ralph Strong was one of the first to lease land to DTE.
Trustee Bryan Washburn said, “People own the land and have a right to use it.”
He has taken payments not to lease his land but as an adjoiner of a possible turbine site.
Keim said, “While it is safe to realize this board has done nothing to ensure the protection of all residents, it is acting with malfeasant intent, which by shear definition is the wrongdoing and improper conduct as publicly elected officials.”
She said the appropriate action would have to be decided by Union Township voters but she urged the County Commission to enact a county wide zoning ordinance to regulate wind turbines.
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