by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners voted, by a 6 to 1 margin, to approve a one-year moratorium on wind energy projects within the county during its Thursday, Dec. 15 meeting, with the moratorium taking effect immediately. The Shiawassee County Planning Commission met and passed a recommendation for the board of commissioners to approve the moratorium at its Wednesday, Dec. 14 meeting. The new board, which will take over in January, could lengthen or shorten the moratorium, according to Commissioner Jeff Bartz.
Several Fairfield Township residents spoke during Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, urging the commissioners to take the concerns of the county’s residents into account before permitting Apex Clean Energy to begin construction on its proposed Maple Rapids Wind project, which calls for up to 60 wind turbines to be placed throughout Owosso, Fairfield, Middlebury, and Rush townships.
Fairfield Township residents Nancy Hovey, James Raad, and Marie Wirostek each addressed the board at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting. All three are in favor of a moratorium, though Wirostek is the only one of the three who said she would be more open to accepting the project if the county amends its ordinances to mitigate any potentially negative health and safety effects. All three stressed the need for the commissioners to do more research before making a decision on allowing the project to proceed.
“I’m really urging the county to stop and consider this before rushing into a decision; put it on hold,” Wirostek said. “Talk to other counties that have done this. These are 600-foot turbines you’re talking about. We sit in our kitchen and we can see Alma’s turbines 36 miles away. And those are only 300 feet tall. I hope that you consider all the residents this would affect.”
James Raad has already taken the step of researching the effects of turbines in other Michigan counties, having recently taken a trip to Gratiot County to see firsthand how the energy-producing apparatuses are impacting the area. In addition to gauging the noise of the turbines from different distances, Raad also spoke to residents who lived near turbines in Gratiot County. He related a story about a woman who lives with her blinds closed due to the strobing light of a nearby turbine. He also spoke about a family that rarely uses its outdoor space anymore due to the light and noise emitted from the turbines.
“I’m not that concerned with the dollars we’re going to make off of this. In the long run, I don’t think that’s going to make or break anybody. I’m dead-set against this, so I would like you too consider putting a moratorium on it so more people can educate themselves before moving forward,” Raad said at the conclusions of his comments.
The commissioners, as previously noted, all voted to move the process to establish a moratorium forward, though Commissioner Hartmann Aue stressed that there is no need to rush a decision on the issue.
“This is very early in the process. They still haven’t even applied yet. Nothing is going to be done irrationally, but we do need to do more research. I know we’ve all continued to do research, but there are a lot issues to look into. Even when they do apply, it’s going to take six months to a year to review the application, but I have no problem moving this forward,” said Aue.
Commissioner Les Schneider followed Aue’s comments by stating that the board needs to “pass a moratorium, effective immediately, for a time period of at least a year.” He wants the county to have a moratorium in place before Apex applies for a Special Use permit, which he believes would lessen the likelihood of litigation. Aue added that, though he believes some zoning ordinances may need to be changed, he does not think a moratorium is immediately necessary.