Opponents start petition against wind farm zoning

Photo provided by Burt Mason L’Anse Township resident Robert Kissel presents township clerk Brian Jentoft a letter of intent to petition at a Friday meeting of the Township Board, starting the referendum process in motion.

L’ANSE — The referendum process for zoning ordinances in L’Anse Township that control placement of large wind turbines has been started.

Robert Kissel is a member of the Friends of the Huron Mountains (FOHM) group that opposes the wind turbine project proposed by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) and a resident of L’Anse Township. On Friday he submitted a letter of intent to petition to the township’s clerk, Brian Jentoft. That gives them 30 days to collect enough signatures to get the matter on the ballot for a May 2019 vote.

“We’re out canvassing,” said FOHM president Burt Mason.

Canvassers have been going door-to-door in the township to collect signatures from registered voters. To qualify for the referendum, they need to collect at least 15 percent of township residents (excluding L’Anse village residents) who voted in the 2014 governor’s race.

There’s some confusion on exactly how many signatures that is. According to the Michigan Bureau of Elections, the township clerk is responsible for determining the number. On Monday, Jentoft said he did not know how he would determine the number.

“It doesn’t matter, because it’s going to make a difference of one signature,” Mason said.

Mason believes they should not have any trouble coming up with the roughly 200 signatures needed.

“We’ll be turning it in sometime in November,” he said.

In a press release, FOHM emphasized that signing the petition does not mean the signer is for or against wind turbines, only that the zoning changes should be put to a vote.

The referendum process was prompted by changes to the zoning ordinance voted on by the Township Board on Oct. 11. The changes would allow large wind energy conversion (LWEC) systems in Forest Resource districts, which would enable RES to apply for building permits for their proposed Summit Lake Wind Project.

The proposal calls for 49 wind turbines, each just shy of 500 feet tall, and a 25-mile overhead transmission line. The project is located east of L’Anse village in the Mount Arvon area, where RES says the wind resource is adequate for the turbines.