Federal lawsuit filed against Almer Township over wind project
A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources L.L.C. filed suit Wednesday in federal court against Almer Township, seeking a court order that would force local officials to allow a $200 million project to move forward.
Tuscola Wind III L.L.C. filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Bay City against Almer Township and the Almer Township Board of Trustees.
The 49-page complaint identifies five counts – claim of appeal, violation of procedural due process, equal protection, the Zoning Enabling Act, and Open Meetings Act.
The suit essentially claims a systematic effort has been underway to “kill” the planned Tuscola III project, starting with the formation of the Ellington-Almer Township Concerned Citizens (EATCC) group, continuing with the election of several group members last November, and culminating with a one-year moratorium on wind projects and denial of special-land use permit (SLUP) by the board in January.
“This (denial) decision, in addition to the Board’s Nov. 22, 2016 decision to enact by resolution pursuant to its ‘police power’ a moratorium that effectively suspends or amends the Township’s existing zoning ordinance …demonstrates the board’s animus toward and intent to ‘kill’ Tuscola Wind III’s proposed wind energy project in spite of its compliance with all applicable legal requirements,” the suit reads.
The company wants a court order to reverse denial of Tuscola III’s SLUP, void a one-year moratorium currently in place, and award costs.
The suit claims actions taken by the board “violated Tuscola III’s legal rights, requiring relief, including but not limited to, the reversal of the Township’s denial of Tuscola Wind III’s (SLUP) application and invalidation of the Township’s illegal police power moratorium.”
Bryan Garner, manager of communications at NextEra Energy Resources, told The Advertiser that the project should go forward because it complies with Almer Township rules.
“We therefore have a right, just like any property owner, to have the project considered and approved,” Garner said. “But after we submitted our application, the new Almer Township Board ignored the law and changed the rules to fit their personal agenda.
“It’s like changing the rules of a football game in the fourth quarter because the ref doesn’t like who’s winning,” Garner said. “That’s not right, and we filed a law suit against the Board, asking a judge to tell them it’s not right.”
Jim Tussey, trustee, Almer Township, said board members “patently disagree with the accusations NextEra Energy Resources L.L.C. has placed against the township board and planning commission.”
“The law has not been ignored as accused, but followed,” Tussey said. “No rules have been changed. The current board and planning commission inherited the ordinance from the 2012 board. Accusations against the board no matter how many times said don’t make them more true.
“The courts will sift out the wheat from the chaff,” Tussey said. “We are confident the courts will find that the township board and planning commission have effectively discharged their duties.” (Read more)
(This story originally appeared in the Feb. 18, 2017 print edition of The Tuscola County Advertiser and can be read online in its entirety here.)