Sixty percent of voters have decided they don't want to see wind turbines built in Meade Township as part of DTE Energy's Meade Wind Park, according to unofficial election results.
The results show voters defeated a proposal 222-147 that would have allowed DTE to continue a project with up to 48 wind turbines in the township.
It was a "very important vote," according to DTE spokesperson Scott Simons.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," Simons said, adding that it was part of the utility's plan to bring clean and affordable energy to Michigan residents and a commitment to a state mandate requiring utilities to generate 10 percent from renewable energy sources. "As a result, we're exploring different sites outside Huron County."
Simons said DTE takes "great care" in siting wind parks to comply with local, state and federal laws and guidelines, and voters had to "sort through a number of issues," from property setbacks to shadow flicker.
"This was a tough and at times contentious process," he said.
The same was true at well-attended Meade Township board meetings last summer and fall, which ultimately led to a 4-1 decision in November by the board to allow the project to go forward.
An effort led by resident Rita Parsch, however, helped put the question on the ballot after she gathered more than 120 signatures to trigger a referendum.
"It was about more than just the turbines," Parsch previously said. "It was about having a say about where you live. ... That was what I heard last summer, that people wanted their say."
Meade Township trustee Robert Johnson, who in November voted in favor of approving the project, said he was glad residents could vote.
"I'm not sure where it's going to go from here, but I'm not saying it's a complete end to it," Johnson said of potential future plans for the park.
He said the township board will wait to see what comes next, but, "evidently, a majority of the people in Meade Township aren't interested in wind energy."
"I'm disappointed we're going to miss out on tax revenue we could have used to build our roads and stuff," he said.
Some 369 of about 525 registered voters in Meade made a decision Tuesday.
Mike Whelan, 37, said he voted no.
"I don't like seeing them," said Whelan, who moved to Meade Township from Brighton about three years ago. "They're just an eyesore to me."
Whelan said he understood potential benefits the wind project would have brought to Meade, but was "not too worried about the supposed money we'd get back."
He was more concerned of the rural landscape.
"I like my nights dark when I can see the stars," he said.
Duey Holz said he voted yes.
"Whatever Mother Nature can do for you and not have to have foreign dependency on oil, go for it," Holz said. "It just makes sense."
Some who have opposed the wind project say Meade Township should maintain its quiet, farming community -- without wind turbines. But Holz, who works in farming and has lived in Meade for all of his 60 years, said the two could coexist.
Holz said he signed up to receive payments from DTE. He also favored the potential revenue DTE said the township would receive -- about $12 million over 20 years.
"We're never going to get any better roads if we don't have this," he said.
Plans for the Meade Wind Park are unclear at this point. As for landowners who signed contracts to participate in the project -- DTE says there were at least 100 -- Simons said decisions "will be determined going forward."
"Our folks will be in touch with them," Simons said.