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For now, wind power will stay out of Reading Township.

That was the decision of res­i­dents of Reading, a township 11 miles southwest of Hillsdale, in a ref­er­endum on Feb. 26, the vote fol­lowed a long, fierce debate over Duke Energy’s pro­posed Hillsdale Wind­power Project. Reading Township Super­visor Jon Burrell said it was an “over­whelming” vote against the project.

The project would have encom­passed approx­i­mately 12,000 acres of land in Allen, Cambria, and Reading Town­ships of Hillsdale County, according to a doc­ument on Duke Energy’s Hillsdale Wind­power Project website. The doc­ument also said that the project would create many jobs, both short-term con­struction and long-term main­te­nance, and provide tax revenue.

“What ‘no’ means is that township voters rejected ordi­nance changes per­taining to indus­trial wind farms, mostly relating to noise,” Burrell said. “In August, the Reading Township Board amended the ordi­nances to make them more per­mis­sible, which would have allowed Duke to put up more wind towers.”

The Zoning Ordi­nance of Reading Township, a pub­licly available doc­ument, “as it is is fairly restrictive,” Burrell said. Voters have the chance to vote on any changes to zoning reg­u­la­tions through ref­er­endum.

Burrell said that, although the vote was in Feb­ruary, Duke Energy had aban­doned the project in November 2012, citing inad­e­quate infra­structure in a letter to local offi­cials.

“There was no nearby trans­mission line with enough capacity. The existing one was insuf­fi­cient,” Burrell said. “The thumb area [of Michigan] is where most of these projects are really going.”

The letter went on to maintain the pos­si­bility for returning to develop in seven to 10 years.

The Wind­power Project had engen­dered sig­nif­icant debate over the past few months, with several orga­ni­za­tions joining the fray. “Save Reading,” one such orga­ni­zation, formed in the beliefs that “the many unin­tended con­se­quences of wind energy are being sig­nif­i­cantly down­played or out­right ignored by the power company…and our township gov­ernment has not ade­quately addressed our con­cerns,” according to its mission statement.

The Inter­state Informed Cit­izens Coalition, Inc., “a non-profit cor­po­ration ded­i­cated to raising public awareness of the potential impacts from the con­struction of indus­trial wind tur­bines in our region,” also par­tic­i­pated in public debate, encour­aging its members to call their elected offi­cials and attend town meetings. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the group even appeared at Mark Steyn’s public lecture at Hillsdale last spring.

As for the future of wind energy in Reading Township, Burrell said that the vote had made it uncertain.

“[The vote] really did finalize it. This project was bigger than just Reading,” Burrell said. “Reading was just the cen­ter­piece. Duke wanted to go into Allen and Cambria Town­ships, but it wasn’t pos­sible without the approval of Reading.

“The wind project has gone away and will probably never come back.”         

                  jbutler@hillsdale.edu