Chicago-based Invenergy has filed a lawsuit in Gratiot County Circuit Court on behalf of the Heartland Farms Wind Project claiming Fulton Township violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when it denied a special land use permit that would have allowed the company to build 12 wind turbines in the township.
Five other townships that are part of the proposed 72-turbine wind farm – Newark, New Haven, North Shade, North Star and Washington – have all approved the project.
On April 20 the Fulton Township board voted 4-0 to reject the plan after the township’s planning commission had unanimously recommended approval.
Then Township Supervisor Denise Rossman recused herself from the vote stating a conflict of interest.
Rossman was later appointed township clerk following the resignation of Chad Marecek and Doug Antes appointed as supervisor.
The suit claims that Trustee Robert Baxter made the original motion to approve the planning commission’s recommendation with Treasurer Melissa Zemla offering a second.
However, he later withdrew the motion.
The suit states that Baxter made another motion “reading from a piece of paper” to reject the granting of the special land use permit, which passed.
Invenergy claims that the motion was prepared in advance and that Baxter didn’t “state or disclose who had prepared the written motion, which he read,” according to court documents.
The suit also stated that the prepared motion did not come from anyone at the Spicer Group, the township’s engineering firm, or its attorneys.
The initial hearing in the case is to be heard by 29th Circuit Court Judge Cori E. Barkman on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
She could simply dismiss the case, send it back to the township board to be reworked or agree with Invenergy’s claims.
In an effort to get more details the Morning Sun contacted Jorie Fox, Invenergy’s senior associate of renewable development.
“As the lawsuit is ongoing, we can’t provide comment to your questions,” she wrote in an email.
However, she did share a statement from the company, which said:
“Invenergy is confident in all the steps Heartland Farms Wind has taken throughout the permitting process. The project is moving toward the start of construction this fall and we are ready to deliver the significant economic benefits the project will bring to Gratiot County and the five participating townships.”
Invenergy is being represented by attorney James R. Griffin from the Chicago law firm of Schain Banks Kenny and Schwartz.
Fulton Township recently changed its legal counsel in the case from the Okemos-based law firm of Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes to the law firm of Foster Swift in Grand Rapids.
Once the wind farm is finished and goes into operation, with or without Fulton Township’s participation, it will be owned by Consumers Energy and become the sixth wind farm in the county featuring a total of nearly 420 turbines.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding