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New wind district OK'd

After relatively little public comment, the nine-member Huron County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the Pheasant Run Wind Energy Overlay District Wednesday evening during a special meeting and public hearing.

HURON COUNTY - After relatively little public comment, the nine-member Huron County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the Pheasant Run Wind Energy Overlay District Wednesday evening during a special meeting and public hearing.

Pheasant Run could be the future home to a wind farm located within portions of Fairhaven, Sebewaing, Brookfield, Winsor, Oliver and Grant townships. Wednesday's vote gave RES Americas the go ahead to move forward with the planned district within Grant, Winsor and Fairhaven townships, said Huron County Building and Zoning Director Russ Lundberg.

Sebewaing, Brookfield and Oliver townships will have their own public hearings to finalize zoning approval, he said.

"The other townships will take care of their business sometime in the near future ... presumably sometime in the summer," he said.
Before the vote, vice-chair Fred Hasen and board members Clark Brock, Ervin Haley and Joel Weber disclosed they have wind energy leases, but they would not refrain from voting on this district because the land they own is not in the district.

Property owners and residents living in or within a half mile of the proposed overlay district in... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

HURON COUNTY - After relatively little public comment, the nine-member Huron County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the Pheasant Run Wind Energy Overlay District Wednesday evening during a special meeting and public hearing.

Pheasant Run could be the future home to a wind farm located within portions of Fairhaven, Sebewaing, Brookfield, Winsor, Oliver and Grant townships. Wednesday's vote gave RES Americas the go ahead to move forward with the planned district within Grant, Winsor and Fairhaven townships, said Huron County Building and Zoning Director Russ Lundberg.

Sebewaing, Brookfield and Oliver townships will have their own public hearings to finalize zoning approval, he said.

"The other townships will take care of their business sometime in the near future ... presumably sometime in the summer," he said.
Before the vote, vice-chair Fred Hasen and board members Clark Brock, Ervin Haley and Joel Weber disclosed they have wind energy leases, but they would not refrain from voting on this district because the land they own is not in the district.

Property owners and residents living in or within a half mile of the proposed overlay district in those townships will receive notice of a future public hearing in the mail, and notice also will be published in the local media.

Brad Lila, of RES Americas, addressed the large crowd before the public hearing began. He said confirming the overlay zone is just the first step in a long process the developer must go through before any ground is broken.

"Before we can show up on your doorstep with a site permit application in hand, we have a lot of hoops that we have to jump through. We have a lot of studies that we have to do," he said. "... Each and every one of these studies is very time intensive, requires a lot of resources and, quite honestly, is quite expensive."

RES does not want to start those intensive, costly studies before it knows the project can legally move forward, Lila said.

"...We're hoping to get some confirmation from the county that indeed our projects rest within county-approved overlay zones," he said.

Lila reminded the board and the audience that when construction begins for the Pleasant Run project, RES will hire about 300 employees. After the turbines are built, five to eight full-time staff members will be required to maintain the them. A similar number of workers will be hired to complete and maintain a second project RES is pursuing in the Thumb, Deerfield Wind Farm, which is being planned for the northeast portion of the county.

"The entire investment for RES, with our two projects, is going to be in the range of approximately $1 billion, so we really believe that this is a real opportunity for Huron County," he said.

Before opening the public hearing, Planning Commission Chairman Ted Sheldon set the ground rules for public comments. Those who own property within the boundaries of the proposed district had the first opportunity to speak, followed by those who own property within a half mile of the proposed district, and finally, anyone else who wished to speak. Each speaker was limited to three minutes.

Three people who own land within the overlay district spoke in support of the project.

Randy Elenbaum, who lives in Brookfield Township and owns property in Winsor Township, said he wanted to stand up and show his support for the district.

"We've got a good company. Wind energy is good for our county. I think it's good for all of us," he said.

Robert Haag, a young farmer who owns property in Winsor Township, said he's looking forward to the extra income from the wind park to supplement his farm.

"I don't have a lot of land, so this is a way for me to help my livelihood and raise my family," he said.

Of those at the hearing who own land within a half mile from the proposed district, three spoke in favor of the project and one spoke against. Ted Leipprandt, who lives in Winsor Township, read a statement that told the story of his grandfather, who settled the family farm in 1879, relying on wind energy long before electricity came to the area. He had a large windmill that ground flour, pumped water, ground feed for the livestock and provided power.

"Wind power, in those days, was a necessity, and Huron County had plenty of wind and it still does," he said.

Over the past few years, he has enjoyed watching wind turbines become part of Huron County's landscape.

"They're beautiful and graceful, I think, and they're capturing a commodity that's free for the taking - wind," he said.

He said other energy options, such as nuclear and coal, currently are nearly impossible to site, and environmental activists don't want companies to dig for oil.

"So what can we do to generate energy? We do have an option in this area. We have plenty of wind. I would say let's move forward and take advantage of this resource. I am in favor of the project," Leipprandt concluded, followed by applause from the majority of people in the room.

Michael Lorencz, who owns property in Brookfield Township, disagreed. He said his neighborhood always has been quiet, with the exception of Owendale Speedway on Saturday evenings in the summer.

"The speedway is tolerable because the racing season only lasts for several months. We see no useful purpose in placing wind turbines in our peaceful neighborhood, as they have the potential for causing blade flicker, flashing red lights at night and disturbing noises," he said.

Despite noise restrictions, Lorencz said he believes various annoying noises still are quite possible.

Of those at the hearing who do not own land in or near the district, two people spoke against the project and one spoke in its favor.

Lou Colletta, of Lake Township, asked the board why the map of the overlay district indicates the district comes within three miles of the shoreline, which is something the planning commission previously has stated it would encourage developers to avoid. He also asked whether the commission is concerned about the prospect the state might take away the personal property tax, which is the only income the county currently receives from turbines.

The commission did not immediately answer Colletta's questions, as the public hearing still was in session, but said it would be addressed later.

After the public hearing was closed, commissioner Clark Brock responded to Colletta's question about the distance from the shoreline by saying the 3-mile distance is a recommendation, not a requirement.

"We still will work with and encourage developers to keep as close to that distance as we can within the boundaries of it. We're not anxious to have close development to the lake shore either, so we're continuing to work with developers in that fashion," he said.

Lundberg expanded on Brock's explanation by saying the guideline is put out by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and it's subject to change based on aviation studies done in specific areas.

Brock responded to another of Colletta's questions by saying the planning commission is very concerned about the potential loss of the personal property tax.

"I personally have been in Lansing, having those conversations with legislators about the importance of that to Huron County," Brock said.

If the state does away with the personal property tax, there needs to be something else in place that will be in the best interest of all the residents of Huron County, he said.

The next Huron County Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 305 of the County Building.


Source: http://michigansthumb.com/a...

APR 1 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/30508-new-wind-district-ok-d
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