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Sherwood wind turbine ordinance goes to voters

Voters in Sherwood Township will decide Aug. 4 if they want the board approved “Wind Energy Conversion Systems” zoning ordinance to take effect.

The controversial law to regulate large industrial wind turbines was passed in December by the township board after nearly two years of work and public hearings by its planning commission and township board.

Those opposed filed a notice within seven days to stop enforcement of the law and collected a petition within 30 days to put it on the ballot.

Clerk Marjorie Whitcomb said the number of registered voters on the petition, around 160, was much more than the 116 needed to require the vote. Only a couple of the checked signatures were not valid among the 1,864 registered voters.

State law said the petition must be at least 15 percent of those who voted in the township in the gubernatorial race in the last general election. That was 769 in November 2018.

Voters will vote either “yes” to allow the ordinance to become law or “no.” The law states “Failure to reach a majority of ‘yes’ votes means the ordinance or amendment is denied by electors and does not become law,” according to the Secretary of State.

If it fails, the township could then begin the process again to enact another ordinance. The ordinance was drafted with the help of McKenna and Associates.

Battle lines were visible around the township with those opposed posting signs against wind turbines and many joining the Concerned Citizens of Branch City. Those in favor of wind put up signs urging “Farm the wind.”

The ordinance work began after DTE began signing leases, mostly with farmers, in the four northwest townships for a wind farm.

The vote may not be the only challenge to the law. DTE representative Jeff Haines said the law was too restrictive and did not allow for construction of any turbines. This could result in a lawsuit to challenge implementation of the law.

State law requires jurisdiction to allow for any use of land, but allows them to set restriction on locations, operation and construction.

Only properties in the AG Agricultural district are eligible for a Special Use Permit for a utility-scale system.

Lots must be a minimum of five acres for utility-scale facilities.

The setbacks for on-site wind turbines must be set back from all property lines by at least 300 percent of their height. Maximum height is 330 feet

There also is a one mile setback from the village of Sherwood and half a mile from listed bodies of water and residential zoning. There is a two mile set back from environmentally sensitive areas.

There also are limits on noise and shadow flicker from rotating blades.