TUSCOLA COUNTY — Newly elected members to the Almer Charter Township Board and to the Ellington Township Board of Trustees brought a new attitude about wind development.
The two townships held back-to-back special meetings Tuesday at the Tuscola Technology Center, and each made similar motions about slowing down a wind development project in their townships that previous board members had started to put in place.
The meeting was regarding NextEra Energy Resources' plan to develop Tuscola III in the area, which is a $200 million wind-farm project.
During their separate meetings, Ellington and Almer township officials each approved hiring Attorney Mike Homier from Foster Swift Collins & Smith, each township put in place an ordinance imposing a temporary moratorium on wind energy development, and each selection of a planning commission liaison.
According to Ellington Clerk Bobbie Mozden, Homier specializes in handling wind development issues, but his services will not be limited to just wind energy.
"Almer and Ellington townships have thoroughly debated every issue of wind energy for more than a year now. The permit application we submitted for Tuscola III reflects some of the most stringent setbacks and noise regulations of all local ordinances, both current and proposed, and balances the concerns of both participating and non-participating landowners," said Bryan Garner of NextEra Energy Resources.
"The citizens of Almer and Ellington Townships deserve a vote on this project and an opportunity to realize the significant economic and clean energy benefits Tuscola III presents."
Although several members on each board are part of the Ellington - Almer Township Concerned Citizens group, they say they are not against wind development but rather want time to study the issues and review the ordinances.
"Residents have felt they have a very weak wind ordinance and that it was enacted under a conflict of interest. They have fought for change over the past year and have been denied their right to due process," explained Ellington Township Supervisor Russell Speirs about the boards' action.
During the November election, voters replaced four out of five members on the Ellington Township Board - Speirs, Mozden, Carmell Pattullo, and Gregg Campbell.
"The newly elected board put in place a one year moratorium to halt all wind related actions within the township so they can create an ordinance that reflects their desire for health, safety, and welfare," said Speirs. "In doing this, it will give residents their right to due process including a vote if they choose."
Almer Township Clerk Peggy Reavey confirmed her board followed the same action as Ellington, but had not yet set the length of the moratorium.
"The new board members want to slow things down to review all of the information and the ordinances," Reavey said.
New Almer Township members are Trustees Jim Tussey, Art Graff, Jim Rosentangel, and Supervisor James Mantey.
The boards' action is in regard to NextEra Energy Resources proposed $200 million project, Tuscola III Wind Energy Center, which is to build a total of 52 turbines in Almer, Ellington and Fairgrove townships. The company filed for special use permits in those townships in September.
Because the permits have not yet been approved, the process can be slowed down and more review done, explained Mozden.
The delay will not hinder the wind project.
"The wind production tax credit is still available and the timing of approvals won't affect our ability to use the tax credit to provide more affordable power to Michigan ratepayers," said Garner.
In other business during those meetings, Gregg Campbell was appointed as the planning commissions liaison to the Ellington board, and Jim Tussey was appointed as the liaison to the Almer board.
And in Ellington, the township meeting was rescheduled to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 because of training scheduled for newly-elected officials.