Industrial Wind Farms Bring Political Conflict, Recalls and Lawsuit to Township
State’s renewable mandate also bringing hundreds of new turbine towers
Feb. 17, 2018 | Evan Carter
A legal battle over a proposed wind farm of 63 turbines is brewing in a small community in the Thumb area of Michigan.
Members of the Juniata Township planning commission voted to approve a special land use request by wind turbine supplier NextEra Energy Resources. Subsequently, a group of residents asked the township board to adopt a moratorium on wind farm developments so the community could revise a wind zoning ordinance adopted in 2010.
When the board refused, residents gathered enough signatures to recall three of its five members. A fourth board member was targeted for a recall, but the Tuscola County election board rejected the petition language.
Garrett Tetil, one of the leaders of the recall effort, told Michigan Capitol Confidential he will likely sue the township over the special land use permit.
Some communities welcome wind farm developments, but in others, proposals for wind farms have led to legal and political strife.
According to state law, local zoning ordinances must protect the “health, safety, and welfare” of residents, but communities can’t create “exclusionary zoning” ordinances that effectively ban an otherwise legal activity.
Some wind farm developers have sued communities, contending that their zoning ordinance is too restrictive. Their lawsuits are not always successful, and in 2017 a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a moratorium on further wind development can be permissible in some situations.