NEW HAVEN TWP. – On Monday, Sept. 11, New Haven Township hosted a presentation about wind energy by Kevon Martis of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, Inc. The Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, Inc. is a non-profit corporation dedicated to raising public awareness of the potential impacts from the construction of industrial wind turbines in the region. Martis is a volunteer, not a lobbyist.
New Haven Township supervisor Tim Hill opened the presentation by explaining the township’s planning is all done through the county. “They advise us, and we tell them what we’d like to have done. If the residents don’t like it, they really ought to be at the [county planning commission] meetings themselves. Some people are for it. Some people are against it. If you’re so-for, or so-against, you should be at the meetings,” Hill said.
An unidentified man in the audience asked whether a spokesman for the township board had input.
Hill responded, “Can’t really have a survey of all of the residents to have a say. Just because everyone in this room feels one way, doesn’t mean everyone in the township feels the same way. This is only an informal meeting. I’ve heard both sides.”
Township trustee Tom Foster said, “I received a letter from [Shiawassee County Land Use Planner] Matthew Lafferty. The townships may make recommendations.”
Hill said, “I hadn’t received that. It’s probably on my desk.”
An unidentified woman talked about protecting the community for years down the road. Others talked about keeping the township pristine, maintaining its rural character.
A man asked, “Wouldn’t the fairest way be to have an election?”
Martis began his presentation saying, “I hear this a lot. ‘Can we have a vote?’ In Michigan, you cannot have an opinion vote.”
“I have seen the new ordinance [developed by the Shiawassee Planning Commission]. There are a lot of good protections in it,” Martis said, adding that he has seen some ordinances that are even more restrictive.
Since New Haven Township relies on the Shiawassee County Planning Department for its planning and zoning services, he advised residents that if the county’s ordinance includes something that troubles them, township residents can petition to create a township planning board and establish a moratorium. It takes signatures of a minimum of eight percent of the voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election to put a proposal on the ballot.
Martis first got involved with wind turbines in 2008. That was triggered by then-governor Jennifer Granholm who signed a law requiring energy companies to generate a certain percentage of green energy across the state, such as wind.
Back then, a wind turbine project was proposed for his community in Blissfield. Martis said, “We had no idea [what to expect with wind turbines]. We drove out to Ubly, where they already had them. The ‘wind guys’ came to our meeting. They were the same guys who sold us an ethanol plant. They told us [the ethanol plant] would be quiet. I believed them. But it wasn’t.” He added they were told the ethanol plant would smell fragrant, not offensive. But it did stink. These were the same guys who were promoting wind energy.
“I’m a volunteer, a resource for legislators. I work for people interested in equitable wind energy. I was on the planning commission. It’s a thankless task,” he said. Martis believes the approach of “consent and compensation” should guide wind energy zoning ordinances.
Martis said, “When the wind developers come in, they talk about jobs, green energy and economic benefits.” He explained what they don’t tell people is local energy costs won’t go down. The company sells the energy generated to corporate interests or local utilities.
“Michigan wind is not good, it’s not consistent enough,” Martis told the audience. He explained that out west, wind energy has consistently been cheaper there. “It’s the most expensive in Michigan.” He then posed the question of why wind developers are here, if the wind is poor? “They have their profits guaranteed by ratepayers and taxpayers, whether the wind is good or bad,” he said.
“Until recently, Huron County was a free for all,” Martis said. Only a few townships, Lake, Mead and Paris, zoned them out. Last winter, Lincoln Township in Huron County stood to receive enough new turbines to take Huron County’s total beyond 500 turbines.
“Despite four of the five Lincoln Township trustees having wind leases with the developer, they led the effort to take back control of their local zoning to protect their residents from permissive county zoning. They stood to get the big checks, and they opposed it. Wind regularly loses at the ballot box. Wind has never won a township level referendum since 2009,” Martis said.
He continued, “Why is [wind developer] APEX here? Because the Thumb has said, ‘no more.’” Martis explained Michigan already has more than 1,500 megawatts of wind turbines installed. The Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition receives complaint calls from all across the state, Martis said. There are nearly 500 turbines in Huron County alone.
Martis touched on many of the issues that generate complaints: noise, shadow flicker, television/radio/cellular phone disruption, decreasing property values, health concerns, overall height, setbacks, farmland destruction, road destruction, impact on wildlife, living with turbines and why landowners should beware. For additional information about the impact of industrial wind turbines, he invites those interested to go online to www.iiccusa.org.