by Jessica Hickey, staff writer

 

BRAD LILA, Director of Project Development for Apex Clean Energy, addresses the residents gathered at a Rush township meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10. The meeting included a presentation by guest speaker Kevon Martis as well as a heated question and answer session with Lila. This was the second Rush township meeting in which upset residents discussed what can be done to prevent wind turbines from being built in the county. The proposed project, known as Maple Rapids Wind, would encompass land in four townships: Middlebury, Owosso, Fairfield, and Rush. (Independent Photo/Jessica Hickey)

 

For the second monthly meeting in a row, almost 100 people crammed into the tiny Rush township hall on Thursday, Nov. 10 for a contentious two-hour discussion on wind turbines. Kevon Martis, Director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, began the meeting with a detailed PowerPoint presentation outlining the main objections to wind turbines. The meeting then deteriorated as Brad Lila, Director of Project Development for Apex Clean Energy, attempted to respond.

In his presentation, Martis outlined the reasons turbines can be detrimental to a township, including height, noise, and trespass zoning. No other turbines have been built in Michigan as tall as the proposed maximum height being planned for Shiawassee County (600 feet). Many residents are concerned that this height will ruin the view of the countryside. Regarding noise, Martis said that the low-frequency sound produced by the turbines at night (usually their most active time) can cause sleep disruptions for those living within a 1.25 mile radius. Finally, he addressed “trespass zoning,” a term he coined to refer to the de facto easement created by a zoning ordinance that measures setbacks not from the property line of an adjacent property, but from the home placed on that property. He also pointed to the experience of Huron county: with its long history with wind energy, that county has made its zoning more and more restrictive, and they are now considering a moratorium on any new turbines. Martis said, “A project with this big of an impact should get the buy-in of the majority of the people who have to live with it or it’s just not fair.”

The tone of the meeting, which had up to this point been quiet and cordial, took a turn as Lila then asked the board for permission to respond to some of the points made in Martis’ presentation. The same people who listened politely to Martis for a solid hour refused to allow Lila to complete two consecutive sentences. He was interrupted frequently, as questions were shouted at him and many of his statements were met with a collective jeer or a dismissal. Lila pleaded with the group to keep it civil as he addressed what he called “some flat-out misinformation.” He said, “You heard what the oil and gas industry wanted you to hear. Michigan needs new energy generation because coal plants are going to be closing.” This was met with a cry of “Not anymore,” a reference to president-elect Trump’s promise to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, a regulation requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from energy plants. Lila attempted to continue, “We’re offering you an economic development opportunity with safe, clean energy.” Almost in unison, the crowd responded with “We don’t want it!”

Although the wind energy project proposed by Apex would bring an increase in tax revenue to the township, it is clear that at least this large group of residents is not interested. The residents repeatedly asked what it would take to make Apex take their project and “go away.” Martis answered this by pointing out that Rush township still has its own planning commission, although it hasn’t been active for some time. According to Martis, the township has the option of reinstating the planning commission and declaring a moratorium on wind energy projects in order to pre-empt county control of the project. The township board of trustees said it would be exploring this option.

The two-hour meeting ended with a final citizen question for Apex: What’s the biggest obstacle other townships have put up that made it hard for you to complete a project? After thinking for a moment, Lila answered, “I suppose it’s moments like this. It’s working through the zoning.”

Citizens Not Interested in Hearing from Apex was last modified: November 21st, 2016 by Karen Elford