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Published: Wednesday, 7/6/2011

Decision expected Wednesday night on wind turbine proposal

A wind turbine is modeled during Blissfield Wind Energy project team open house at the Blissfield American Legion in Michigan in March. A wind turbine is modeled during Blissfield Wind Energy project team open house at the Blissfield American Legion in Michigan in March.
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RIGA, Mich. -- After a six-month moratorium and a canceled meeting last week, Riga Township residents -- and other interested groups -- are expected to receive the final verdict they've been awaiting regarding the 200 wind turbines proposed for the area.

The Riga Township Board has rescheduled the special meeting it canceled last Thursday because of space constraints.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the board will review the proposed changes to the township zoning ordinance during a meeting moved to the Blissfield American Legion.

Unless the zoning ordinance amendment goes through a voter referendum, the board's decision Wednesday night is expected to end the long debate about the desires of Wind Energy Systems Exelon, Great Lakes Wind, Juwi Wind LLC, and Orisol Energy US Inc. to introduce the turbines to the township.

The current wind generation ordinance draft proposes regulations on noise and also would require a minimum half-mile setback from the property lines of "nonparticipating parcels."

A nonparticipant could waive the standard setback minimum, but the waiver still would not allow turbines to be constructed within 1,320 feet of the nonparticipating parcel.

James Manning of Juwi Wind LLC said the company recommends set-backs of at least a quarter mile.

Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition director Joshua Nolan said he believes residents should be provided a one-mile buffer between their homes and the turbines, twice the distance proposed in the ordinance draft.

Mr. Nolan said he was not alone in his quest for harsher turbine restrictions at last week's canceled meeting.

He estimated that more than half of the approximately 350 people in attendance opposed the turbines.

But Riga resident Paul Wohlfarth said most of the opponents were not Riga citizens.

Mr. Wohlfarth said he believes most Riga citizens do not attend town meetings. In fact, Supervisor Jefferee Simon said past meetings have drawn fewer than a dozen residents during his 2 1/2 years with the board.

"People are coming from Detroit, people from all over are getting their noses in our business," Mr. Wohlfarth said. "They're drowning out the local people, who shy away from controversy."

Township Clerk Karlene Goetz said that unlike the municipal building, which can hold only 200 people, Wednesday night's venue can handle about 500 people.

Although Ms. Goetz said she would not expect Wednesday night's turnout to exceed the size of last week's crowd, the board will not surpass the capacity limit set by the building's fire codes.

Contact Traci Tillman at: ttillman@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.

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