HURON COUNTY — A Sand Beach Township official has taken issue with how a recent petition against changes to the township wind ordinance was circulated.
Township Supervisor Wade Mazure complained to the Huron County Board of Commissioners last week about a wind developer that he says hired someone to circulate a petition there.
Bryan Garner, manager of communications for NextEra Energy Resources, said that the company did support the group that circulated the petition, which, he said, was comprised of citizens.
Sand Beach Township recently changed the sound restriction in its wind ordinance.
“These changes, we felt, protected the health, safety and welfare of our residents,” Mazure told the board.
“Some were not happy with these changes, and a petition circulated for a referendum vote (to oppose the changes),” Mazure said.
“I respect that position. It is their right to do so. However, I have an issue with the way the petition circulated.”
He said that NextEra Energy hired a firm to circulate the petition.
“An obnoxious individual went door to door and was at the township hall on Election Day very near the door, and he had to be told to stay 100 feet away from it. He was yelling at people to get their attention even after that,” Mazure said.
He said two people complained at a subsequent township meeting about tactics used to persuade people to sign the petition.
“One said that he actually lied to get her sign. That he told her that if she signed, that no turbines would be coming in.”
Garner said the ordinance language was on the petition, so people would have known exactly what they were signing for.
“People could read what they were supporting, if they did in fact sign it,” Garner said.
Mazure continued: “A letter was given to virtually every resident approached for signatures, and the letter … it makes it appear that the board did not do our job because the changes are sudden and drastic.”
“One of the reasons so many people wanted to sign,” Garner said, “is because the ordinance was passed hastily and quickly without a lot of public comment.”
The letter, Mazure continued, said, “They will kill jobs. They will hurt local businesses and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue.”
Garner said there was a point to that.
“The message is that if you close the door to wind energy, you miss out on that stuff,” he said.
Mazure said that the situation was handled legally by the township.
“The township board and planning commission followed every legal aspect for publishing, holding hearings and voting on the amendments. For NextEra to print something like this and use the tactics that they have was very unprofessional.”
Garner said that the people of Sand Beach Township want a voice, and don’t want to “shut the door” on wind energy, since the ordinance amendments would prohibit wind farm development.
He noted that there were 250 signatures on the petition, which has been submitted to the county clerk for approval.