Residents of Merritt Township waited until almost midnight Tuesday night to find out that a proposed 9 wind turbines in their community, part of a larger $250 million dollar regional project, will not become a reality. The project has divided this community with some residents in favor of the project that will bring jobs to the community and some opposed based on concerns about shadows from the windmills and other inconveniences they might create.
An attorney for the company in charge of the project, Next Era Energy, told the packed township hall earlier in the evening Tuesday that the company has the legal right to go forward with the project. Project Director Jason Utton gave a presentation about the economic benefits of the now proposed turbines, saying the $250 million dollar project will create 12 to 15 jobs and give the community and local schools and influx of tax revenue.
"We've been owning and operating wind farms since the late 1980s and are excited to developing in Michigan to infuse rural communities with sizable investment while putting a lot of people to work," said Utton to a divided crowd. Utton and other company representatives said that Next Era and it's subsidiary, Tuscola Bay Wind, will address any resident concerns at the company's expense, including installing shades and drapes to help residents who are bothered by the flickering shadows of the windmills, and even planting trees to block the flicker in resident's sight lines.
9 farmers stood to benefit, to the tune of 12 thousand dollars per yer, per farmer. Compensation for use of their land by next year energy. The issue has divided neighbors and even family members. We caught up with one farmer who was going to have a turbine on his farm. He did not want to talk or have his name used, not wanting to further anger his neighbors, who he says don't wave anymore.
Resident Barb Cody says the community can heal. "Its sad because like I said we're a small community and if you've every been to Munger potato festival you know what kind of people we are, its sad to come to this.
Mary Wells, community relations representative for Next Era says the company will now weigh it options while proceeding with turbines in Bloomfield and Gilford Townships that are already approved. She says they are disappointed that the township "ignored it's own ordinances", saying the company followed through with everything that was requested. She also says the company is moving forward with the 70 proposed turbines in nearby townships and added that Merritt Township did approve a substation for the project and other infrastructure, and the company plans to proceed with those things.