Wind farms create controversy in area

by Jack Butler on April 5, 2012

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Those who attended Mark Steyn’s lecture in the Sports Complex on Tuesday night encountered something of a surprise: Standing out in front of the building, several neon-green-shirt-clad locals protested wind turbine development as Steyn’s audience filed into the Arena. He even spent the first few minutes of his speech talking about them.

The protesors were affiliated with a group called the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, Inc., which attempts to focus opposition to projects such as wind turbines. The organization was founded by Kevon Martis, a former Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission for Lenawee County, Michigan. Martis says that “watching wind turbine developers change zoning regulations [for wind turbines] got his attention.”

“To sum it up: the developers are telling us, yeah, they’re 50 feet tall, but they’re a 1,000 feet away, so you won’t even notice.”

When Martis’ term on the commission ended, he reached out to others concerning what he saw as some of the drawbacks, such as “the noise, the disturbance of sleep, danger to wildlife, and decrease in property values.”

Both Martis and fellow Lenawee County resident and coalition member Josh Vancamp said wind energy is impractical. Martis said that “wind energy only exists with a $52 per megawatt per hour subsidy, versus 66 cents per megawatt per hour for coal.”

According to Martis, Duke Energy Renewables, a part of Duke’s Commercial Businesses, is seeking to establish wind turbines in Reading Township, a nearby locality. Vancamp also says that the nearest of these wind turbines would be established “less than five miles from the Roche Sports Complex.

Gretchen Oberdick, a Reading resident, was also at Steyn’s speech. She is a member of a group called “Save Reading Township” which wants stricter zoning regulations for the windmills, citing concerns similar to those of Martis.

“We’re a group of people with the same goal: proper siting of the wind turbines. Duke has requested them closer to residences than our research suggests is safe,” she said.

“We’re dedicated to preserving Reading Township.”

Another Reading resident, Walt Sinzer, disagrees. He supports the project thoroughly.

“There are a number of reasons I support these turbines,” he said. “I like the looks of them, they’re big, majestic, and provide non-polluting electricity. Whether or not global warming is true, we’re polluting every time we burn oil and gas into the atmosphere, and these turbines provide an energy source that’s free, we just have to pay for the machine.”

Sinzer also cited economic benefits for the town.

“The township receives tax money, and the school and the landowners receive money, all to be spent right here in Hillsdale County. Christine Bowman, who used to promote Hillsdale’s economic development, said that for every one dollar spent on the windmill, seven dollars will result. It snowballs.”

Sinzer said that the Save Reading Committee has the wrong idea.

“Save Reading Committee…to save Reading, it needs a real shot in the arm. It was once a thriving little town, now there’s really not much going on here. What you need is money. I respect those people and their opinion, but I am disappointed.”

Sinzer’s views are similar to those of Duke Energy Renewables. A fact sheet provided by Tammie McGee of Duke Energy Corporate Communications details various misconceptions they say people have about wind energy. For example, in response to the charge that wind farms are harmful to humans, the sheet rebuts that “wind energy is a benign technology with no associated emissions, harmful pollutants, or waste products.”

The official website of the project says, “Community benefits include a new source of tax revenue that the community can count on year after year, a large number of construction jobs (and a smaller number of operations jobs), and emission-free electricity generated locally.”

All interviewed parties mentioned a Reading Township Council meeting on April 16, at which a discussion of the project’s merits are to be held.

For now, this debate shows no signs of blowing over.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeff King April 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Muddled thinking.

—”Both Martis and fellow Lenawee County resident and coalition member Josh Vancamp said wind energy is impractical. Martis said that “wind energy only exists with a $52 per megawatt per hour subsidy, versus 66 cents per megawatt per hour for coal.”

True or not (and I tend to think it is true) this is really a property rights issue. Do I have the right to do with my property as I wish? I moved to a rural area because there was no zoning. I “protected” my rights by buying enough property to make my neighbors activity less of a factor.

Belive me, I’d much rather have a wind generator 1000 feet from me then be downwind from a pig farm. But try and restrict the later in this county and see how far it gets you.

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2 John Beckstein April 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

It is about property rights to a degree. That is only one issue. Should my neighbor force me to accept an out of scale development that emits noise, flickering shadows and potentially stray voltage onto my property? I always thought a neighbor had rights up to their property line, but if his activities stray in some way from his property, it becomes a nuisance. Once that neighbor begins to emit from his property he impinges onto my rights. But those who have turbines always try to minimize my right to be left alone by their noise, shadows etc. They try to paint a neighbor who doesn’t like their emissions as a complainer, obstructionist, etc.

But the bigger issue is the fact these things don’t work at all. They are a complete waste of tax money. I say “sure, build as many as you like, but do it WITHOUT my tax money.” If you can build wind turbines without tax subsides I will then say build them.

(Subsidies include forcing me to buy the power from them…so don’t forget to take away the RPS forced market too, and forcing me to build power lines to them so they can off-load their junk energy…so don’t make me pay for your transmission. Subsidies also include artificially killing the coal industry by regulating it out of existance.)

Now I think the picture becomes more clear. No turbines will be built if you don’t force me to pay subsidies. Build ‘em only if you and you alone can afford to do so. These things are of no benefit to society, so their is no real need for them other than to pad the pockets of GE et.al., most of which are foreign companies eating our lunch.

For all you union rah-rah types, why not slam Obamanation for outsourcing more of your jobs and giving you the temporary bones over here? Fooled again by the politicals. Stop listening to your union bosses who don’t tell the truth, and get real. Look around. Figure it out. You’ve been robbed and short changed. Now keep voting for them and it only gets worse cause they know they’ve got you fooled. Wait till your power bills double and triple. It is all planned shortages that will do it, caused in part by spending money on wind turbines that don’t work. That’s why no one likes your foolish support of these stupid monuments to greed. Because it will cost all of us in the end…..all because people are not using their brains…

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3 Joshua Van Camp April 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Mr. King:
In the most immediate sense to Reading Township, yes it is a property rights issue. Right to farm laws in Michigan give protections to agricultural uses that some may find obnoxious. But those same uses have existed for some time and can sometime be exected when one moves to a rural area. Wind turbines are NOT protected by right to farm as they are industrial equipment being used for an industrial purposes. When the suggested “safety zone” for a large wind turbine is 500 meters, a non participating property owner should not have to worry about their personal safety while enjoying the full use of their own property. The fact is that these projects have mechanisms that allow developers to buy more residents into these projects, but the developers refuse to use market mechanisms.

That’s because the wind developers are not used to free markets. They sell a product that the state mandates we all buy. While the issues that exist in Reading are playing out in other communities in MI and across the US, it would also pay for us to ask ourselves why we are forcing expensive and unreliable wind energy down ratepayers throats in a time when we should be doing everything in our power to reduce input costs.

At the national level, wind energy has been heavily subsidized for decades using tax payer dollars. Most of this money has disappeared overseas… although so far this year the main subsidy, the production tax credit, has not been renewed.

It amazes me that with a straight face supposed conservatives can embrace “green energy” and all of its subsidies. I guess the paycheck helps. The other side knows the score. Mark Schauer, the former 7th District Democrat Rep that Tim Walburg defeated in 2010 attends these local township meetings (he was at the last Reading meeting) on behalf of big labor, pushing for these projects. He is part of a number of liberal special interest groups that are attempting to get the renewable portfolio standard (the mandate that forces us to buy renewables) increased to 25% this fall via a state constitutional amendment.

Anyone at Hillsdale that has questions or is interested in working with the IICC or the Save Reading groups can contact me at jvancamp@tc3net.com and I can help you make contact with the appropriate people.

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4 Joshua Van Camp April 8, 2012 at 12:00 am

One correction to the story, the turbines in question in Reading would be approaching 500 feet tall, not 50 as the story says. This is a typo.

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5 Laura Van Camp April 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

**TYPO IN ARTICLE–THE PROPOSED TURBINES ARE APPROXIMATELY 500 FEET TALL–NOT 50–BIG DIFFERENCE!!** Go to iiccusa.org for additional information on everything from the negative impacts, developers claims, and the things you can do to get involved. Most of all GO TO YOUR (AND YOUR SURROUNDING) TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION AND BOARD MEETINGS AND SPEAK OUT!!

Keep in mind that the tax revenue you are promised is miniscule in the scale of the other impacts you will be forced to endure AND if Gov. Snyder is successful in doing away with personal property tax say bye-bye to that tax $ from the developers because that’s where it’s going to come from!

Jeff: Living in a farming community, you are right, the farmers have the right to plow any time they need, kick up dust, spread manure, spray their fields, etc… Sometimes it can be annoying but it’s a small price we pay to live in the country. The difference is that the plow will not be in the field ALL day EVERY day–near your bedroom window making a low frequency noise that keeps you from sleeping or being able to concentrate for the next 20-30 years. That’s not even taking into account the shadow flicker, ice throw from the blades, and many other problems that have been found when turbines are sited too closely to people’s homes. Bat/Bird blenders–oh I mean industrial wind turbines–are not agricultural and have no leg to stand on when talking “right to farm”.

In regards to your property rights argument–I agree completely! You have the right to do whatever you wish with your property UNTIL it affects your neighbor and his property rights. That is our main argument with the setback distances and noise limits. As my good friend Kevon Martis likes to say it equates to, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins”. Regardless of who owns 1 acre and who owns 1000 acres we are all protected under equal rights in the eyes of the law. If these wind turbines keep me from enjoying or SAFELY using my own property, what then?

You DO NOT need zoning in order to protect yourselves from being taken advantage of. Ogden Township here in Lenawee county does not have zoning and recently enacted a Police Powers Ordinance that protects residents from improperly and irresponsibly sited industrial wind turbines and remains unzoned.

I think when the turbines com (which they will if more residents don’t get involved) you will be singing a different tune–the tune we’ve heard from people all over the mid-west who thought they would be wonderful until they were the ones forced to live with them rhythmically turning day and night–and some eventually forced to leave their homes because of it. I dare say they would counter you and take living by the pig farm any day.

It just sickens me that the landscape of the beautiful, unique, precious, conservative Hillsdale College would be marred by this joke of a subsidy filled energy plan created by Obama and perpetuated by liberal greenies everywhere. The irony of the turbines spinning over your heads (yes–even if they are 5 miles away it will feel like they are) on campus of the most conservative college in the country will NEVER be forgotten long after the turbines are decommissioned and we’ve said “told you so” . Here are the numbers if you need to see why it just doesn’t work when talking straight electrical generation.
http://www.tuscolatoday.com/index.php/2012/03/13/fossil-fuel-tied-to-the-wind/

There are MANY other factors in play that many people new to the fight have no idea of, that we have been researching and uncovering for YEARS, but I can only comment so much on one article in the Collegian. I just urge all to get involved and not expect others to protect YOU! Those neon-yellow IICC shirts were us in Lenawee County trying to wake you folks up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you need any other reassurance of their detriment to our well-being–physically and economically just remember that Mark Steyn is with us on this one.

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