ROGERS CITY – Commercial wind turbines will not be banned in Presque Isle County after the county Board of Commissioners voted down a proposed moratorium 4-to-1 on Friday during the board’s last meeting of the year.
Chairman Carl Altman, Vice Chairman Bob Schell, Commissioner Michael Darga and Commissioner Stephen Lang voted against the moratorium, while Commissioner Lee Gapczynski voted in favor of it.
Moltke Township residents Mike and Stefani Schulte, concerned about how a proposed turbine project could affect their property, had sought a pause on turbines until a public vote is held on a county ordinance related to wind farms. That vote will happen in the future because the Schultes collected enough signatures to force an ordinance passed by the county board to the ballot. The county board has not yet scheduled when that vote will happen.
In voting against the moratorium, Altman expressed his concern that litigation could be brought against the county if a wind company were to be denied the ability to operate.
“I’m concerned that, if we would act on this, the county is liable for any litigation, because we’re standing in the way of them doing their operation,” he said.
The board’s legal counsel, Joe Kwiatkowski, said he didn’t think there was much risk for the county because the petition would give voters a chance to be heard one way or another.
“My opinion is that a moratorium makes sense, if it’s going to prevent turbines from going up before the people vote, because that’s a knot you cannot untie,” he said.
Mike Schulte told the board Friday commissioners should hear residents’ concerns.
“The concerns of everyone in Moltke Township and Presque Isle County need to be considered at this time – not just those of the developer or those who want turbines in their back yard – because everyone is affected,” he said. “The only appropriate measure is to enact a moratorium on turbines until this vote is conducted and the commissioners have more time to come up with better zoning.”
Presque Isle County residents who live in cities or townships with their own wind turbine ordinances were not eligible to sign the Schultes’ petition. The cities, villages and townships of Allis, Presque Isle and Krawkow have their own zoning ordinances, according to County Clerk Ann Marie Main. Residents who live there would not be eligible to vote on the referendum.
Bob Brietzke, of Rogers Township, expressed his concerns about the noise and health issues people living in close proximity to wind turbines could face. Brietzke said noise is always the biggest concern wherever wind turbines are, as turbines can interrupt sleep and even produce “infrasound,” which is not audible but can be felt in the body, he claimed.
“When you consider allowing wind turbines to be put in Moltke, the way they did in Mason County or McBane, the people living around them are going to suffer the same kind of things,” he said.
Schell said he understood concerns of noise and how wind turbines can impact animals, but he has witnessed hundreds of “commercial generators” on trips around the United States – most recently on a trip to South Dakota.
“I saw people farming right up to the base of the windmills and I saw cattle grazing around these windmills and they had the opportunity to move away from them if they wanted to,” he said, adding he doesn’t think turbines create the problems residents keep bringing up.
Metz Township resident Joel Kendzorski spoke in favor of the wind turbines, saying there are no hazards associated with them. He said a friend owns property where there is a windmill and that friend hunts next to it.
“I am totally in favor of the windmills being put into our county,” he said, adding he believes wind and solar energy is the way to go.
Officials with Sstar Ridge-Run Energy confirmed they are working to bring a 100-megawatt wind energy project in the county. The company began working on the project in June 2017.
The company has filed four land leases with the county’s register of deeds – three of them in Moltke Township and one of them in Ocqueoc Township. The leases give Sstar Ridge-Run access to property so they are able develop, construct, replace or remove wind turbine generators and other wind producing facilities.
The company can also install underground electrical transmission lines, conduit and other related equipment to the project, according to the leases.
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