Signatures could force wind turbines to ballot

News Photo by Kaitlin Ryan Moltke Township residents Stefani and Mike Schulte hand over petition signatures to the Presque Isle County Clerk in effort to put a county zoning ordinance related to wind turbines on the next ballot. The Schultes do not feel the new ordinance is protective enough, nor do the 432 people who signed the petition.

ROGERS CITY — Stefanie and Mike Schulte managed to collect enough signatures to petition the Presque Isle County Zoning Ordinance 2 pertaining to the installation of wind turbines. If the signatures are validated, their petition will put the ordinance on the ballot during the next election.

The Schultes are Moltke Township residents who found out about the potential installation of wind turbines after a neighbor alerted them to a township meeting. Stefani Schulte said that, when she went to the township meeting, it was the first time they heard anything about the turbines. She said that, by then, there had already been lease agreements between some township residents and the power company.

While the Schultes were not approached for any lease agreements and would not accept one, if offered, the fact that neighboring properties have agreed creates a major problem for them because the land to which the turbine operators would be given access — known as the utilities easement — runs directly through their land. They have said it would destroy their property, where they graze cattle.

The county’s Planning Commission recently established the Presque Isle County Ordinance 2 that set specifics for wind turbine installation, but the Schultes do not feel the ordinance is adequate or is in fact protective of landowners.

In response, the Schultes hired their own lawyer and have been working to halt the progress until the people of Moltke Township have had enough time to educate themselves and then be given the chance to vote on the ordinance.

According to legal counsel and numbers provided by the Presque Isle County clerk, they needed to obtain just under 330 signatures on the petition. That is 15 percent of all votes cast for governor during the 2014 election, minus any voters from townships that already have a zoning ordinance in place. The large turnout during last week’s election increased that target, slightly.

With the help of friends and a couple local businesses, including the Painted Lady and Gardens and Grains, the Schultes managed to collect 432 signatures.

Mike Schulte said he knocked on hundreds of doors to get the signatures and ran into some hostility. However, he said that, for the most part, people were unaware of what was happening and signed the petition because they were also leery of the impact of wind turbine installations.

On Thursday afternoon, the Schultes turned in 432 signatures, with friend Laurie Catalano present as a witness.

Catalano said she felt the Presque Isle County Commissioners weren’t concerned enough about the impact of wind turbines and didn’t give the zoning ordinance enough consideration. She said it is something she doesn’t want in her back yard.

“I pay a lot of taxes for my beautiful view,” Catalano said, “and I don’t want them there.”

With the signatures turned in, the Schultes will wait until everything is verified to know for sure whether or not the ordinance will go on the next ballot in May 2019.

If it goes to a vote, Mike Schulte said the commissioners should put the project on hold, according to his legal counsel.

“What they should be doing is halting any progress until the vote occurs,” Mike Schulte said. “It just depends on the interpretation of the commissioners.”

If the ordinance becomes a ballot initiative, the Schultes said they will work to educate the public on the dangers of wind turbines and how it could negatively affect the community.

“We will have to stay on task to help educate the entire community,” Stefani Schulte said, “that when the ballot initiative comes up, it is a question of whether or not you deem it protective or not.”

Kaitlin Ryan can be reached at kryan@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5693.


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