CARO — The Ellington Township Planning Commission meeting Wednesday felt like a court hearing as two sides tried to make their case for planners to revisit – or not revisit – the community’s existing wind turbine-related ordinances.
After three hours, the meeting was adjourned before anything was resolved.
George Mika, chairman, Ellington Township planning commission, gave the board some options just before 10 p.m.
“Remember, I said there were three things we could do,” Mika said to the board. “Do nothing, make a motion to proceed with recommendations, or make a motion to table until a later date.”
A motion was made to table the discussion until a later date.
There was no discussion and the board voted unanimously to table it to a later date before almost immediately adjourning the meeting.
The meeting held at Caro’s Tuscola Technology Center to accommodate a large group and roughly 150 attended the event – so many that staff at the center had to bring in extra chairs.
Representatives of the so-called Concerned Citizens of Ellington Township and NextEra Energy Resources Inc. were given 20 minutes each to speak during the meeting.
Though on differing sides, both spoke about Tuscola III – a $200 million wind farm planned by NextEra Energy Resources for parts of Ellington, Almer, and Fairgrove townships.
Ryan Pumford, project director, NextEra Energy Resources, told the crowd the company has always been a “good neighbor” and wouldn’t put wind turbines where anyone would be in harm’s way, citing the company’s core values as the reason.
“We are committed to excellence, we treat people with respect, we do the right thing,” Pumford said. “I think it’s important to note that anybody can get one project built using any tactics they want, but they’re not going to be invited back to do the second, the third, the fourth project unless they treat people with respect and do it the right way.”
The company also had a sound and medical specialists speak during its allotted time, both citing numerous studies and saying that any negative impact on health is being overstated.
Jena Becker, of Almer Township, said she has wind turbines near her family’s 74 acres and has never had any issues. She invited anyone to visit her property and experience what it’s like to be close to a wind turbine.
“I care as much about my children’s health as anyone else, and I do not have concerns about the windmills with the current ordinance,” Becker said.
Many Ellington Township residents – and those from neighboring communities – have said all along that they aren’t “anti-wind turbine” and that their biggest concern is the township’s current wind farm ordinance, adopted last year, which allows 55 decibels of sound from the home and a setback of 1,320 feet from the home.
Residents have asked for a six-month moratorium on issuing any permits for Tuscola III to proceed – similar to the one-year moratorium put in place on March 3 by Elmwood Township, which is immediately to the north of Ellington.
Joshua Nolan, an attorney representing the concerned citizens, said the board had the legal right to amend the ordinance – despite the existence of leases for wind turbines already – because permits haven’t been applied for and/or construction hasn’t begun.
“Health trumps wealth,” said Randi Speirs, of Ellington Township. “And it’s obvious that’s what this is all about…health versus wealth.
“Why can’t the setback be moved to a proper line? Why can’t the decibels be lowered? Why do you have to trespass on our property?” Speirs posited during her allotted three minutes of speaking time. “Why do you have to infringe on our little acres? Why are you not concerned about the health and safety? And look what’s happening to the people…friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor, lawyer against lawyer.”
The Ellington Township planning commission is set to meet March 15, 7:30 p.m., at the Tuscola Technology Center in Caro.