May 9, 2019

Voters say ‘no’ to wind

Garrett Neese, Staff Writer | The Daily Mining Gazette | May 9, 2019 |

L’ANSE TOWNSHIP – Voters defeated a L’Anse Township referendum to amend its zoning ordinance to allow wind energy projects on commercial forest land.

The no vote garnered 315 residents (55 percent), while only 257 (45 percent) voted in favor of the amendment.

The no vote overturns a zoning change passed by the L’Anse Township board in October to allow such developments.

The vote comes a month after developer Renewable Energy Resources (RES) pulled out of a planned project for 49 wind turbines east of L’Anse near Mount Arvon, citing unacceptable costs due to planning delays.

The issue had been a contentious one in the township, with proponents on both sides mounting public presentations.

Burt Mason, president of Friends of the Huron Mountains (FOHM), a group which mobilized support to vote down the zoning change, was happy with the vote.

“At this point, it gives the zoning commission the opportunity to rewrite the zoning and put in protections for the community, and try to hold the companies accountable for what they are trying to do,” he said.

Mason said he would like to see additions made to zoning ordinances to protect habitats and make sure developments don’t negatively impact the economy.

The group had stated the turbines could jeopardize tourism in the county.

FOHM’s next large project is the restoration of the Huron Lighthouse in Marquette County, which has been abandoned since the 1960s.

Mason said the group would also like to assist in development in Baraga County.

“Certainly, we would like to work with the officials, the community to ensure that there is economic development, but it’s got to be smart economic development,” he said.

Mike Roberts, a member of Services and Vibrant Economy (SAVE), a group in support of the zoning change, thanked people who voted in favor of the ordinance, although he felt the group was too late in the game getting the word out.

“We didn’t get out message out there in time to reach a lot of the people and combat a lot of the mistruths that were being disseminated,” he said. “I think if we’d been a little ahead of the curve, we’d have been able to reach more voters and give them a better picture of what the facts represented.”

He said the group would continue to promote what it felt were the best interests of the county.

“We’re going to keep at it, and keep promoting progress in the township, whether it’s through wind energy or other projects that come into the county,” he said. “Now, it’s in the hands of the township planning board to take it to the next step, whatever that’s going to be.”

In other elections:

Baraga County

• The Arvon Township 0.5-mill two-year millage to repair the township hall passed 106-56.

• The Arvon Township 1.5-mill, four-year fire protection millage passed 96-67.

Houghton County

• The Adams Township 0.3-mill, eight-year millage to maintain the Atlantic Mine and South Range cemeteries passed 143-20.

• Elm River Township voters overwhelmingly approved four measures. Millage renewals for general services and the fire fund both passed 46-3. The general services millage is for .9794 mills over six years; the fire fund, 1 mill over six. The 1-mill, six-year road fund millage millage passed 47-2. The general fund millage renewal for 1.9589 mills over six years eked out a win, 45-4.

• The Hancock Public Schools operating millage renewal for 18.8653 mills over 10 years passed 271-127.

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