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Seville Twp. referendum to decide fate of wind ordinance

Seville Township officials have been debating the merits of wind turbines for the past several years.

In January the board narrowly approved a zoning ordinance by a 3-2 vote establishing regulations to allow for the construction of turbines in the township.

However, a number of residents were still not pleased saying the ordinance was “too restrictive.”

That led to a petition drive spearheaded by Doug Duffy to get a referendum placed on the August primary election ballot that would nullify the ordinance.

He and others collected 176 signatures. Only 125 were required.

“This shows that not just a couple of people wanted this,” Duffy said at the time.

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 petition had to be registered voters.

All were verified by Township Clerk Terresa Frisbie.

One of the biggest concerns some residents had with the ordinance was that turbines would not be allowed to be constructed any closer that 1,640 feet from a nonparticipating landowners property.

As a comparison, Gratiot County’s wind ordinance requires a setback to be one-and-a-half times the height of the turbine, which is normally between 400 and 600 feet.

“The ordinance approved by the board is too restrictive,” Duffy said. “It won’t work.”

He claims that no wind developer would be interested in constructing turbines in the township because of the stricter regulations compared to other parts of the county.

Supervisor Tish Mallory, however, disagrees.

She was one of the three board members, along with Frisbie and Treasurer Ashlee Gibson, who voted in favor of the ordinance.

“I think (the ordinance) is a compromise on both sides,” Mallory said. “As a board we wanted to protect people’s property. We have talked to a lot of people all over the country and there are definitely a lot of negatives out there (regarding turbines).”

Noise and “shadow flicker” were a couple of problems noted by others who already have turbines in their townships, she explained.

“Between the planning commission and the (township) board we have been working on this for three years,” Mallory said. “As a board we’re trying to bring a happy medium. We’re not voting to have wind (turbines) or not.”

However, the ballot language can be a bit confusing, she added.

It states: “Shall Seville Township’s ‘Ordinance to Amend the Zoning Ordinance of the Township of Seville to Provide the Sitting, Construction and Operation of Wind Energy Facilities as Special Use,’ adopted on January 8, 2020, which permits and regulates wind energy facilities in Seville Township, be approved?”

“It had to be put on the ballot that way because of the referendum petition,” Mallory said.

So a “yes” vote means the ordinance as written should remain in place, while a “no” vote would result in the ordinance being scrapped and township officials would have to start from scratch to develop new wind regulations.