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Huron County voters will decide whether to expand wind turbines

A farm with a wind turbine
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
'Wind farm' takes on a new, and for some uncomfortable' meaning in Huron County

The future of wind turbines in Huron County goes before voters Tuesday.

The county already has the largest number of turbines in Michigan, with 475 turbines already operating.   

Tuesday’s ballot questions would open the door to another hundred or more.

That’s not what farmer Robert Gaffke wants.  

He raises cattle and sheep on his 200-acre organic farm in Port Hope.    Gaffke doesn’t have any turbines on his property, but says the turbines are slowly spilling across the property line on his neighbor’s land.   The blades make a noticeable wooshing sound.

Gaffke feels the turbines are ruining his county’s quality of life in general, and in his life in particular.

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Robert Gaffke and Denise Rice are part of the Huron County Wind Resistance

“It’s devalued my property,” says Gaffke, “I don’t know who would want to live next to a turbine.”

Gaffke and others have been running a shoestring campaign to defeat the two proposals on Tuesday’s ballot to expand the number of turbines that can be built.

But supporters of the expansion have been running TV and radio ads. 

Many Huron County residents like the jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues the turbines bring.

Dean Avola owns the Clean Green Bean café in Bad Axe.   He says this is about the future of Huron County.

“I think a lot of people like to say ‘I want to keep it the way it was’.  It’s never the way it was,” says Avola. “You’re growing or you’re dying.”

Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Dean Avola is the owner of the Clean Green Bean in Bad Axe, and a supporter of expanding the number of wind turbines in Huron County

Driving around Huron County, it’s easy to see the community is divided.   Travel down any road and you’ll see signs for and against the turbine expansion.

Both sides say they hope the divisions within the community will heal after the votes are counted.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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