BAD AXE --Some members of the Huron County Planning Commission are disappointed in a recent wind energy zoning report from Michigan State University Extension.
Last week, the planners reviewed "Sample Zoning for Wind Energy Systems," which is part of the MSU Extension Land Use Series.
Criticism included the fact that wind developers from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC and DTE Energy contributed to discussion of the subject prior to publication.
Planner Ken Walker called the report "very one-sided."
"This is not independent," he said. "To me, it's useless."
Anything beneficial, Walker said, was in the original document published in March. Soon after that, it was taken down from MSU's website, and another version was released Aug. 24.
The March version included recommendation of a 2,500-foot setback from the property line of a non-participating landowner.
Planning commission Chairman Bernie Creguer said this was an impossible standard, and that it would create exclusionary zoning.
That recommendation was taken out of the August report.
Jeff Smith, county building and zoning director, was one of eight people who reviewed the publication.
He told the board the extent of his involvement was to:
• Provide MSU with a copy of the county's 2015 wind ordinance
• Provide the sound methodology that was included in the 2015 ordinance
• Review the portions of the pamphlet that referred to Huron County.
Planner Robert McLean said he would have appreciated it if Smith had notified the commission that he was involved with the report.
"I didn't skew it one way or another," Smith answered. He added that MSU chose what went into to the pamphlet, and he gave no opinions in his feedback.
Smith said he distributed the document to planners as soon as he received it.
"I've lost a lot of faith in MSU," McLean said. "This is politically motivated -- not independent science."
"I don't see really any value in this new document, unfortunately," McLean added, later saying he was "outraged" by it.
Planner Robert Oakes had pointed out that universities are typically in favor of green energy.
The 40-page pamphlet includes court and case law; cautions and commentary; reports on noise and shadow flicker; and a section entitled, "Not all wind farms are controversial."
"Research includes a 'place identity theory' where a person's personal identity is tied to valued landscapes in place," the report reads. "In other words landscape has a symbolic value -- so those with a strong bond to their community may view wind farms as a form of 'alien invasion' ... "
Outside interests benefitting from the local community also contributes to opposition to wind development, the report says.
At last week's meeting, Smith and McLean also debated what is the best sound methodology for wind ordinances, which the report also addresses.
Walker criticized the report for showing no impact on property values where there are wind turbines, and presented an article that showed a decline in the value of homes near wind turbines.
The full report by MSU can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/sample_zoning_for_wind_energy_systems_2017
In other planning commission business, planners:
• Received a letter from the Huron County Farm Bureau stating that large-scale solar production is incompatible with agricultural production.
• Approved a PA 116 (farmland preservation) partial termination application for Stephen Gayari in Winsor Township.
• Approved a PA 116 application for Leslie and Linda Weiss of Huron Township.
• Approved PA 116 applications for Leslie, Troy and Katie Jo Volmering; and another for Troy Volmering in Sherman Township; and one for Johannes and Anthonia Verhaar in Grant Township. The PA 116 applications will go before the Huron County Board of Commissioners for final approval.
The following meetings were announced to take place in Room 305 of the County Building on Oct. 25: Planning commission by-laws committee at 5:30 p.m.; and a Huron County Master Plan workshop at 7 p.m.
The next regular meeting of the planning commission will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 1, also in Room 305 of the County Building.