The wind ordinance narrowly approved by the Seville Township board last month is now in limbo.
A group of citizens has collected enough petition signatures to get a referendum rejecting the ordinance on the August primary election ballot.
In the meantime the ordinance will not go into effect pending the outcome of the vote.
The board had OK’d the ordinance that would have allowed the construction of wind turbines in the township by a 3-2 margin, with Supervisor Tish Mallory, Clerk Terresa Frisbie and Treasurer Ashlee Gibson voting in favor, while trustees Doug Brecht and Marlin Brush voted no.
However, a number of residents felt the new rules were too restrictive, including not allowing turbines to be constructed any closer than 1,640 feet from a nonparticipating landowner.
As a comparison, Gratiot County’s wind ordinance requires a setback to be one-and-a-half times the height of the turbine, which could be between 400 and 600 feet.
In response, township resident Doug Duffy spearheaded a petition drive to get a referendum on the August ballot.
“We had 12 people circulating petitions,” he said. “We collected 176 signatures in 24 days. It’s a moral victory for us. We followed the letter of the law and got it done. This shows that not just a couple of people wanted this,”
Only 125 signatures were required to get the issue on the ballot.
The number of signatures that needed to be collected was 15 percent of the total votes cast in the township during the most recent gubernatorial election.
Those who signed the petitions had to be registered voters.
The signatures have been verified by the township clerk.
“Now we can focus on the election,” Duffy said. “The ordinance approved by the board is too restrictive. It won’t work.”
“We’re not anti wind,” she said. “We’re just for respecting people’s property.”
The board will have the final say on the ballot language, Mallory said.
The wording on the petitions was not clear, she claimed.
“They never showed us what was on the petitions they were handing out,” Mallory said.
The petitions stated: “Referendum petition pursuant to MCL 125.3402 regarding Zoning Ordinance Amendment adopted by the Seville Township Board on January 8, 2020, to provide for the sitting, construction and operation of wind energy facilities, Seville Township Ordinance No. 20200108.”
“It’s very vague,” Mallory said. “We need to get in much clearer so people can understand it.”
The township’s attorney is now working on “what verbiage should be on the ballot,” she added.
“We hope to have it back by our March or April meeting,” Mallory said. “That will give us time (before the election) to educate the people out there.”
The vote would be to reject the wind ordinance approved by the township board. If it passes the ordinance will be nullified and would require further discussion on a new wind ordinance to begin again from scratch.
By next year, nine of the county’s 16 townships will have wind farms that will include a total of more than 400 turbines.
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