All too often, township officials around the state seem to have a double standard when it comes to permitting wind farms vs. other developments. In many townships, property owners are dismayed to find that many uses of their property are controlled by a myriad of rules and ordinances. The same level of local government control does not always apply to wind farm developers.

Merritt Township in Bay County serves as an example of the lenient treatment afforded wind developers. The township board in February 2010 adopted an ordinance that requires that wind turbines that are over 400 feet tall can be located within ¼ mile from a home, not from the property line. Coincidently, 400 feet is the distance recommended by New Era (Boulevard Associates LLC), the proposed developer of the wind farm. Plans call for a potential of 14 windmills to be located within a 4 square mile area.

Residents in areas of proposed wind farm development have good cause to be concerned regarding noise and a decline in their property value from the development of windmills. Property owners who lease land to wind developers stand to gain financially, but their gain may result in their neighbor’s loss.

Local government officials who are often zealous in their enforcement of building codes and noise ordinances should hold wind farm developers to the same standard. The energy and environmental benefits of unreliable wind power are questionable at best. It is a given that households will pay for wind power through higher energy bills. Property owners in the vicinity of wind mills should also not be expected to bear the cost of diminished quality of life and reduced property values. 

The Michigan Legislature created the inevitable land use conflicts by passing a requirement that at least 10 percent of electricity come from renewable sources. The renewable energy standard was bad policy when it was passed and Michigan residents are just starting to experience the negative consequences of the legislation. Michigan legislators should repeal the renewable energy standard. In the event the standard is not repealed, legislation should be put in place that puts limits on wind development to ensure that property owners are protected. Alternative energy may be a popular cause of the ruling class, but property owners should not be expected to bear the brunt of these negative consequences.