ELLINGTON TWP. – Members of the Ellington Township Board of Trustees took no action Tuesday night when several residents, along with a lawyer, urged them to toughen a township zoning ordinance regarding wind turbines – or face a lawsuit.
“I guess I wonder what it’s going to take, because I’m willing to write (attorney Joshua) Nolan a check tonight to proceed,” resident Bobbie Mozden said. “I’m also entrusting in him fully that he will bring us the justice that we’re seeking since we have a hung board if you will.
“That’s not a threat, that’s a promise – I guess I can say that because I believe our attorney is stellar, (and) top-notch.”
Nolan, one of about 40 people in the audience Tuesday, stressed that the five board members have the right to change the ordinance, stating they need to right a situation caused by what Nolan called a “conflict of interest” on the part of Supervisor Duane Lockwood.
Nolan alleged Lockwood demonstrated such a conflict by weighing in at board meetings on a proposed wind-turbine ordinance after Lockwood signed lease agreements with a wind-turbine developer.
“If we have to litigate this matter, you can expect that a court is going to find your current ordinance void, as a result of the actions taken under conflict of interest,” Nolan said.
Nolan claims the township has violated residents’ right to due process.
“When someone has a financial incentive in how a decision made, which way the decision goes, the law says they’re no longer a neutral arbiter, and you’ve denied your citizens the right to due process,” Nolan said. “Now most of you sitting up here didn’t create this mess. Unfortunately, you’ve got the duty to clean it up – to fix it.”
Mozden said she knows board Trustee Mike Wagner is “with us,” and then addressed township Clerk Joddy Ehrenberg and Treasurer Diane Wilder.
“I’m trying to figure out what it would take, for you – Diane – and for you – Joddy – to get the scales off your eyes and listen to reason,” Mozden said. “I’m not sure what it’s going to take. Like I said, there’s about a roomful of people who will get out their checkbooks tonight and write Mr. Nolan a check and say ‘Let’s get it started.’
“Do we have to play dirty? Is that what it’s gonna take? Just a question.”
Nolan told board members they have a right to amend the zoning ordinance to put in place “a noise limit that will protect your people, with a setback that will protect your residents, as they’re requesting over and over again.”
Almer Township resident Norm Stephens told the board that “Denmark (Township) effectively zoned the turbines out, and there was no lawsuit filed.”
By and large, the five Ellington board members did not engage in discussion with the exception of a few technical questions.
Township resident Russell Speirs, in an email to The Advertiser following the meeting, claimed all five Ellington Township board members received a letter from Nolan’s office “outlining the litigation process if they fail to make changes to the existing ordinance.”
“There was no (board) discussion about that letter, nor was it even mentioned until Josh Nolan did so in public comment (Tuesday),” Speirs wrote. “How can a board conduct their monthly business and fail to acknowledge something as strong as that letter?”
Speirs also wrote he found it “odd … how silent the township attorney (Brian Garner) was” at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Where is the sense of urgency from the township’s attorney when his client is on the verge of a lawsuit?” wrote Speirs, who is running for the office of township supervisor.
During the meeting, Ellington Township resident Mike Pattullo asked Garner if the board has directed him not to communicate with Nolan to try to resolve the dispute.
“I have to be directed by the board to do something,” Garner said. “If the board wants me to talk to him, they’ll direct me to talk to him. I can’t spend your money willy-nilly. I could call him and talk to him all day long, but (then) I’m spending your money.”
Pattullo urged board members not to refuse to work with those seeking a tougher wind ordinance just because those board members may have been offended during recent debate.
“I think pretty much everybody in this room would say that, at one point or another, their feelings have been hurt,” Mike Pattullo said. “They’ve been what they think is insulted, someone has been mean to them, and they’ve pretty much decided – excuse my language – ‘Screw you, I’m not going to work with you anymore, I don’t like the way you’ve acted, I don’t like what you’ve said to me. It was mean and you’re not respecting me.’”
Though a person could hold a grudge against an in-law or cousin after such encounters, Pattullo urged board members not to take that approach.
“In this situation, it’s going to cost us all a fortune, and it’s going to split this township right down the middle,” Pattullo said. “So all I’m asking is if you can find a way to get past the emotion side of it, and look at the facts, and make decisions based on the facts, we might get through this without it getting really ugly. Otherwise, if people are going to shut down and not do anything because ‘I’m mad at so-and-so; he said this to me and I don’t care what happens now, I won’t do anything that might benefit them,’ I think this is going to be a long, hard path for a long time.”