Sanilac County News

Speaker Twp. voters reject zoning amendment


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The polls are in with Speaker Township voters rejecting a zoning amendment to the township’s wind ordinance in a special election on Aug. 8. 

Just over 44 percent of the township’s 996 registered voters turned out to voice their opinions on the controversial ordinance, with 77 voting yes, to approve the amendment, and 365 voting no.

Speaker Township Supervisor Bill Maitland previously told the News the amendment would have tightened the requirements for a proposed wind project by Liberty Utilities (Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp.) 

Maitland told the News the planning commission will be scheduling a public meeting, where the township’s attorney will be present, to explain the consequences of the outcome for the township, and a potential wind project, going forward. 

The Canada based utility company has submitted special land use permits to Fremont and Speaker townships for the Riverbend Wind Project, which would see around 50 turbines – at the height of 656 feet to the tip of the blade – spread between the townships.

Active on social media, members of a citizens against wind group – which includes residents from both Speaker and Fremont townships – encouraged voters opposed to the potential Riverbend Wind Energy project to vote “no,” objecting that the turbines are “too loud, too tall, too close.”

Speaker Township resident Carolyn Fairman filed the petition for referendum that succeeded in getting the amendment placed on the ballot. 

Fairman declined to comment. 

Those opposed continuously cited the height of the turbines as a main issue. However, a portion of the rejected ordinance amendment states that it: removes the definition of the total height of the turbine as defined in the township’s ordinance.

On social media platforms, residents encouraged those at the ballot boxes to vote “no” to stop the increased height allowance.

The wind ordinance, which passed in 2021, does not include a height limit.

Maitland told the News the Speaker Township ordinance instead follows the guidelines of the Michigan Tall Structures Act. 

Some townships do specify height, such as neighboring Fremont Township with a limit of 700 feet.

This amendment was to correct the verbiage in the current ordinance which states:  The total height of a wind turbine shall be the distance to the center of the hub of the wind turbine plus the distance to the tip of the turbine blade at its highest point.

Approval of the amendment would have corrected the redundant definition of height as “distance to the center of the hub,” leaving the definition of height as “distance to the tip of the blade.”

Approving the amendment would also have enacted further requirements for the decommissioning process, lowered the sound pressure level for non-participating residences, and required an Aircraft Detection Lighting System if authorized by the FAA.

Voters rejected the following language:

Speaker Township Zoning Ordinance Amendment No. 2023-01:

1) requires Aircraft Detection Lighting System if authorized by the FAA 2) 3) lowers the maximum sound pressure level for non-participating residences from 50 dBA to 45 dBA, 4) requires the estimate of salvage value to be determined by a licensed engineer and that it be reassessed every two years, 5) requires a decommissioning financial security prior to construction, 6) requires that the decommissioning financial security be reassessed every two years, and 7) requires that the decommissioning bonding requirements run with the operating assets in the event that the wind turbine assets are brought by a different company.