Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Which Way the Wind Blows
. . . .

Which Way the Wind Blows

Patrick Sullivan - November 21st, 2011  
Which way the WIND BLOWS

The windmill in the distance belongs to the Spencer family, who run a lavender farm in Leelanau County’s Centerville Township. (photos by Patrick Sullivan)

Adecision expected this week could end a nearly year-long lawsuit over a wind turbine erected at a Leelanau County farm.

Penny and Shandy Spencer spent around $74,000 to construct a 112-foot windmill that rises above their lavender farm north of Cedar. They got the windmill last November in response to federal incentives and because they wanted to generate sustainable, green energy, even if it cost more than electricity from fossil fuels.

Leelanau County Turbine Pits Neighbor Against Neighbor

A couple who lives nearby, Kay and Richard Kobetz, objected and sued. The couple, whose sprawling Lake Michigan-view home is about 750 feet from the windmill, demanded damages and the removal of the turbine.

Now after a three-day trial and what must be tens of thousand of dollars spent by the Kobetzes for lawyers and experts on wind turbines, 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power is scheduled to announce a decision Tuesday about whether the Spencers can keep their windmill.

The case has drawn the attention of neighbors around a northern section of County Road 651 overlooking Good Harbor Bay and Lake Michigan, many of whom attended the trial and support the Spencers. Supporters say they have no problem with the erection of a windmill in an agricultural district.


One of those in the gallery for most of the trial was Bob Marshall, a secretary emeritus for the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council.

He believes the case may wind up saying a lot about which way the wind is blowing for private wind developments in Northern Michigan.

“We’re kind of concerned that if this were to be turned down, then it could set a precedent that alternative energy has got a lot of problems,” Marshall said.

Marshall said he finds it significant that in an area of numerous neighbors, the Kobetzes are apparently alone in opposing the windmill.

“Many of them who are fairly close don’t seem to be disturbed by it at all,” Marshall said.

What the case comes down to, Marshall said, is if someone carefully selects a spot for a wind turbine and then gets all of the proper permits and approvals from the township, they shouldn’t need to worry about someone with big pockets coming along and suing just because they don’t like it.

“Our concern was that we don’t want to see an obstacle put in the path of getting alternative energy introduced anywhere,” Marshall said.

The Kobetzes could not be reached for comment and their attorney, Aaron Phelps, did not return a message from the Express seeking comment.

The Spencers said they didn’t want to comment until they learn Power’s decision.


The Kobetzes originally argued that it wasn’t just noise from the windmill that bothered them, but also shadow flicker from the motion of the blades and vibration from its operation, said Karen Ferguson, an attorney who is representing the Spencers with attorney Kristyn Houle.

Ferguson said those are boilerplate arguments made across the nation whenever residents want to oppose a large-scale wind farm.

“They kept changing what it is they were really concerned about,” Ferguson said of the evolution of the Kobetzes’ case. “What it really came down to was, they didn’t want to see it. They were looking for other things to complain about.”

Just not liking the looks of something in a neighbor’s yard doesn’t constitute a legal reason to have it removed, Ferguson said.

Ferguson originally tried to argue the case based on the Right to Farm Act, saying the wind turbine was equipment that was part of a sustainable farming operation. Ferguson said Power apparently was reluctant to settle that question with this lawsuit because there is no case law in Michigan regarding how wind turbines fall under Right to Farm.

The case wound up centering on whether the windmill could be considered a nuisance.

Nonetheless, Ferguson said she feels good about the Spencers’ case.

“I think we felt very good after the site visit, and so we’re optimistic,” she said.

The case may have been at its heart an argument between neighbors, but the litigation grew to three thick files stored at the Leelanau courthouse as if it was a much bigger suit.

The number and quality of experts the Kobetzes paid to bring to Leelanau County was extraordinary, Ferguson said.

“The Kobetzes tried to make this small, private wind turbine the case of the century, and it’s just not a big huge industrial wind farm,” she said. “It’s not comparable at all.”


In his closing arguments, Phelps argued the Kobetzes brought the case to court because they find the wind turbine they can see outside of the home so irritating.

“It’s annoying, it’s distruptive, it’s not a pleasant sound. That is what the Kobetz’s are dealing with,” Phelps said.

Power, though, frequently interrupted Phelps during his closing.

He was concerned that during a site visit to the Kobetzes’ home earlier that day, he had listened to the windmill outside and then inside their house and he didn’t hear any noise inside.

“I have to tell you, I didn’t hear it inside the house,” Power told Phelps.

Phelps said that was because there was only a light wind that afternoon and that during the day there is less ambient background noise than there is at night.

But if it was a windier day, wouldn’t the sound of the wind mask the sound of the turbine as each got louder? Power wondered.

Phelps pointed to an expert for the plaintiffs who testified that the wind sound is at a different frequency than the turbine sound so one does not cancel out the other.

Power wondered aloud if perhaps that flew in the face of common sense.

“It could be that, even if the exact wavelength isn’t cancelled out by the wind, ... that the human perception of it pays attention to the louder noise and doesn’t notice” the other noise, Power said. “Three people testified that on a windy day, they couldn’t hear it.”

Phelps countered that the Kobetzes said they hear it and it disturbs them and it keeps them up at night.

“This is their property,” Phelps said. “This is their retirement home, but it’s also their retirement investment.”

During Phelps’s closing, Power made another observation, however – a sawmill had once been located on the farm where the Spencers now live, so that would presumably be an allowable use.

Power left it to those watching to imagine whether a sawmill or a wind turbine would be a bigger nuisance.

Penny Spencer at her lavender farm in Leelanau County.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5