2017-12-31 / Insight

Opinions vary about wind turbines in northern Lapeer County

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com


About 200 people turned out for what was called an educational event held at a North Branch Township horse farm in October – just a few weeks after The County Press reported DTE Energy Co. is looking at the area to possibly construct a “wind park.” 
Photo by Andrew Dietderich About 200 people turned out for what was called an educational event held at a North Branch Township horse farm in October – just a few weeks after The County Press reported DTE Energy Co. is looking at the area to possibly construct a “wind park.” Photo by Andrew Dietderich A group of about 200 found their way to North Branch Township’s Rebel Ranch horse farm on Oct. 17 to talk about something they probably didn’t expect to just a few weeks prior.

Wind turbines.

The County Press broke the news on Oct. 8 that DTE Energy Co., through representative land agents, had spent most of the summer securing easement rights for wind turbines from property owners in Burlington, Burnside, and North Branch townships.

DTE officials confirmed being in “the very early stages of talking to area landowners about a possible project at some point five to 10 years from now.”

Many had immediate concerns – primarily centered on how officials from each township planned to balance public health, safety, and welfare with commerce.

Residents, non-residents, company officials, and more crammed into meetings often held on rainy, stormy, cold evenings in each community, hoping to be heard, regardless of whether they were for or against wind turbines coming to town.

As recent as November, a DTE official said land agents are meeting with potential leaseholders regularly. The company also has offered anyone interested the opportunity to tour one of its “wind parks.”

Concurrently, Burnside Township is the closest to having an updated zoning ordinance as it pertains to wind energy development projects. Board members are likely to take action on amendments recommended by the planning commission at its regular January meeting.

Officials in North Branch and Burlington townships, however, have more work in front of them in terms of preparing for the possibility of wind turbines coming to town and put moratoriums in place as a result.

In November, North Branch officials enacted a one-year moratorium on wind and solar developments. The purpose, they said, is to give planning commission members enough time to develop recommended amendments to the existing zoning ordinance and send them to the township board for a final vote (unless a petition is filed to put it on a township ballot post-board vote). Currently, North Branch Township’s zoning ordinance does not address commercial wind energy projects.

In December, a complaint was filed with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette alleging DTE Energy representatives have made fraudulent claims in connection with local zoning ordinances in northern Lapeer County.

Blissfield-based Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition Inc. filed the complaint on behalf of North Branch Township resident Traci Martin (owner of Rebel Ranch). DTE officials have called the claims “false” and called out the “author of the letter” a “leader of a wind opposition group.” An MPSC spokesperson said it will “thoughtfully review the letter.”

Meanwhile, Burlington Township officials face what was termed a “gigantic project” that resulted in enactment of a twoyear moratorium in November. The township does not have a planning commission or zoning ordinance. Township attorney Brian Garner said “right now anyone can come in and do any kind of development they want without any regulation as far as zoning.”

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