By DAVID GREEN
Many people attending the June 27 public meeting at the Morenci American Legion Home were hoping to hear from both sides of the wind turbine issue.
But, as advertised, the meeting was sponsored by the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition—a group dedicated to informing the public of “the potential impacts from the construction of industrial wind turbines.”
The two speakers outlined potential problems with land leases and listed problems residents might have living near a turbine. No one in the audience challenged any of the points made during the presentation.
Township resident Matt Simpkins, however, said he wasn’t pleased with what he saw as a negative approach to the issue. He thinks some attention should be paid to what might be gained from having turbines and the economic stimulus a wind farm could provide.
Addressing the two speakers—Kevon Martis from Riga Township and Toledo attorney Josh Nolan—Simpkins asked, “Why don’t we hire you guys and say, ‘We want them in our township.’ Write an ordinance that can help our township and we’ll pay you money to do this.”
Are there any areas in the township, Simpkins asked, where turbines could be placed where it wouldn’t affect anyone’s property values?
“I would say yes,” Martis answered. “If you adopt an ordinance like Riga’s that you don’t need to pay us for.”
Simpkins said that would force turbines out of the township, but Martis said that isn’t true, that it’s the only way to treat your neighbors.
“Your question is, Can you hire me to work on a pro-wind turbine ordinance?” Martis said. “No, I don’t do this for hire. I do this for free.”
Martis claimed that a pro-wind ordinance is already in place in Seneca Township and it faces a vote of the people in August.
“I’m not here to tell you what to do with your township,” he said. “I’m here to tell you what Riga’s experience is and what we found out after four years of exhaustive research.”
Martis cautioned to take developers’ claims with a grain of salt.
Simpkins said he signed a petition to bring the issue up for a vote, but he wanted to hear some positive aspects of wind power. He wanted a more open-minded discussion to help people decide.
Martis wasn’t offering anything about the good side of turbines, and he said later that the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Medina Township resident John Van Havel, Jr., pointed to a statement on the flyer advertising the meeting and asked how Seneca’s ordinance fails to protect residents.
Martis quoted studies saying the noise level should be 40 decibels or less and said that Seneca’s is set at 45 to 50.
“That’s it?” Van Havel asked.
Yes, Martis said, the World Health Organization says it’s too loud.
What happens if voters reject the ordinance as written?
The township board could ask the planning commission to come up with a new ordinance, Martis said, or the board could do it on its own.
Another audience member asked why there’s no suggestion made to visit a wind farm. Martis said he highly recommends it, but he cautioned that the odds are in favor of a well-behaving turbine.
Martis said a planning commission member from Merritt Township near Bay City spent three nights in a house near a turbine and it wasn’t until the third visit that he declared, “Nobody should have to live like this.”
Martis said he isn’t asking anyone to blindly accept what he has to say, but he also cautioned against blindly accepting the word of anyone who has a financial stake through a lease for wind development.
Clyde Barron said that he drove to the Paulding, Ohio, area to get a first-hand look at a wind farm.
“I’d never seen one before other than the [single unit] at Fayette and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “When I got to it, I was overwhelmed.”
He stopped to talk to someone who was mowing his lawn and asked him what he thought about the turbines since he lived close by. The man said the closest turbine was about a thousand feet from his house.
“What do you think about living underneath them?” Barron asked.
“You don’t want these,” the man said.
Barron said he drove down one of the service roads and stood in a position with a turbine upwind and another downwind. That’s when he formed his opposition to turbines.
“It’s going to change things in a major way,” Barron said. “I know it all sounds negative, but unless you drive out and experience one, I don’t think you really know what we’re in for.”