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Stanton Township holds public hearing on wind farm proposal

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Residents from Stanton Township, Adams Township and elsewhere listen to a speaker during a public meeting about a proposed wind farm project in Stanton Township Wednesday.

STANTON TOWNSHIP — About 40 people attended a public meeting held by the Stanton Township board on a proposed wind farm Wednesday.

Roughly 20 residents spoke. Most were opposed to the project by Royal Oak, Michigan-based Circle Energy, which would include four 575-foot turbines in Adams Township and eight in Stanton Township.

Each person got three minutes to speak. Residents expressed concern about the noise and potential environmental impacts of operating the turbines, and of the turbines themselves once decommissioned. Many said the turbines would also be disruptive to the viewshed from miles away, and detract from what brings people to the area.

Deb Bartel-Schweitzer, who lives near the property, worried the disruption would also hurt her property values. Had she known about the project when she moved from Lansing five years ago, she wouldn’t have bought her house, she said.

“Right now, I look out my window, I see a pretty little lake, I see trees … the thought of 600-foot tall machines spinning in the sky above my property, it makes me sick to my stomach,” she said.

Catherine Andrews, a former L’Anse Township resident who was on its Planning Commission, described the community opposition that stopped the proposed Summit Lake project.

“It really unified our community,” she said. “It didn’t matter what church you went to, who you were related to.”

She called for a moratorium on the project so the township could gather more information. Her complaints include the flicker effect caused by the turbine blades and the amount of gas and electricity needed to heat the oil and power the plant, which she said would require a larger transmission line.

A handful did not state an opinion, but had questions regarding the project.

One resident asked what heavy equipment would do to local roads, and if any company-built roads would be accessible for snowmobiles or side-by-sides.

In a response at the end, Chris Moore, a partner with Circle Power, said equipment would be brought in off M-26 onto roads specially built or reinforced to handle the equipment. Each turbine will have 4 acres of fencing around it. Other roads will not be gated unless the property owner chooses to gate those roads, Moore said.

Responding to questions about a decommissioning plan, Moore said those are set up and provided by a third party, similar to an insurance agency.

Moore also pushed back against claims by one speaker residents would see their power costs go up. Circle Power is selling two-thirds of the power generated by the turbines to Upper Peninsula Power Co. at a flat rate of $35/MWh, which Moore described as “one of the lowest-cost renewable energy contracts in the state of Michigan.”

“Whether or not UPPCO lowers their rates, that’s up to them, it’s not up to me,” he said. “We’re providing them with low-cost power.”

The turbines would have benefits to the local economy during the construction period, and create two long-term jbos, Moore said. He estimated the property would generate between $15 million to $20 million in property taxes for Adams Township, Stanton Township and Houghton County during the life of the project.

The questions and feedback from residents will be passed along to Stanton Township’s attorney, who is working on a draft ordinance, said Supervisor John Mattila. Once that is completed, the township will present it at another public hearing, Mattila said.

“After that, there’s a certain period we have to go, and it will be voted on at a township meeting, whether we accept it or deny the ordinance,” he said.

Because the township has no zoning, it will be a police power ordinance, Mattila said.

Adams Township which also has no zoning, has an ordinance with restrictions such as a 3,000-foot setback from the nearest property line.

Answers to the questions posed by residents will also be posted on the township’s website at stantontownship.com, Mattila said. A map of the proposed wind farm site will also be put online, Mattila said.

Mattila also mentioned a May webinar on the local impacts of wind energy projects, led by Sarah Mills of the University of Michigan and Bradley Neumann of Michigan State University Extension. The webinar can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=5Yaucgmt9MA.

Adams Township is also planning a public meeting on the project. Earlier this month, township Supervisor Gerald Heikkinen said he planned to schedule a hearing for after the end of COVID-19 restrictions to allow for a larger crowd.

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