Concerned Citizens of Branch County filled the County Commission work session Thursday to ask commissioners to proceed on a new Master Plan and enact a moratorium on special use permits until one is in place.
The anti wind turbine organization created 16 months ago is most concerned about Union Township which has no rezoning and turned down zoning in last November’s election by 25 votes.
Pam Reed laid out the group’s concerns and urged commissioners “to defend the heath, safety, and welfare of our community.”
She also urged the county to follow through with an updated Master Plan last done in 1997.
Reed noted, “the county planning commission has not kept up with its duties and responsibilities.”
The group had not met for 17 months. It met in March and suggested the county hire a consultant to update the Master Plan but no action has been taken. It does not meet again until June, the next of four quarterly meetings.
“Issuing a moratorium on Special Use Permits, would be the first step in signaling that the County recognizes that shortcoming and is motivated to encourage a more rigorous enforcement of the ordinance, to support the goals of this community and County,” Reed said.
She pointed out that Sherwood, Matteson, and Batavia Townships continue to have moratoriums while they rewrite zoning ordinance to regulate special use permits for turbines.
Bronson Township, which does not have zoning, also enacted a moratorium while it reviews the issues.
Matteson and Sherwood have completed about 80 percent of the process which has taken nearly 18 months.
Commissioner Terri Norris, who represents two of the four townships where DTE has signed leases, noted that the process has been ongoing for two years.
“Do they have a timeline?” she asked.
Reed said, “It is very hard to nail down DTE. The reality is they can say what they want but until there is zoning that addresses it, they can do whatever they want. Union (Township) with no zoning and no leadership without a conflict of interest is the weak link.”
While DTE does not proceed unless it can put together a system over wind turbines over the four townships, Reed said, “there is nothing to stop them from proceeding there.”
Union Township resident Marilyn Johnson, a member of the county planning commission, has repeatedly called for the resignation of Union Township Supervisor Ralph Strong because he has a lease with DTE.
Strong has ignored her request.
Johnson asked the commissioners to educate themselves on both sides of the DTE issues.
“It’s not only going to affect all citizens, it’s going to affect our natural resources,” she said. “DTE is running the government of our township right now. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.”
Reed noted, “A master plan is for the purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted and harmonious development of the county – in accordance with present and future needs, for best promoting the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare of the inhabitants.”
She and the other members of the citizens group suggested the commission act on a county wide moratorium.
She said, “Because we have an incompatible land use of a magnitude never before experienced in rural Michigan, which is trying to come into our county, through the chink of an unzoned Township, why would this Commission not provide the Planning Commission with the legal breathing room to get up to speed?”
The commission took no action on the requests.