BAD AXE — County planners want more time and input before taking action on DTE Energy’s plan to build 50 to 70 wind turbines in Huron County.
The public got its first glimpse at the unnamed project at a March 30 hearing when close to 200 people packed into the Huron County Expo Center. Planners unanimously agreed to table any action, owing to a flood of information and letters they say arrived just before the meeting.
Another meeting won’t be set until May — because officials say county attorney Stephen Allen, who planners rely on for advice on wind projects, will be on vacation until May 2.
Officials say DTE will also go back to the drawing board to submit a revised project application, in response to concerns Allen noted at the March 30 hearing. That’s when DTE said planners must consider three things: that sufficient wind energy resource exists; wind development is of interest to a majority of landowners in the area; and that the land is mainly agriculturally zoned. DTE says it has met those requirements.
However, Allen previously said, it’s “not quite that simple.”
According to Allen, DTE must look at various zoning ordinances and the county’s master plan, and the utility’s layout needs to be safe and appealing for residents and protect health, safety and welfare.
In DTE’s proposed project area, there are a substantial number of properties “without stake in the game,” Allen said, adding the county doesn’t want “swiss cheese” scenarios when it comes to land use.
Once planners approve DTE’s request for a wind overlay district, the first step in the process, “we’re pretty much locked in,” he said.
And now is “the most critical time in any project to get things right,” Allen said.
“That shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he said, acknowledging split opinions in support and opposition to the project at the March 30 meeting.
And, Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith says he is still getting comments from residents regarding the project. Planners say they need time to review all of that information.
“There are too many variables unknown,” Smith said.
They plan to set a special meeting date for the project at a May 4 meeting.
A project planning area covers more than 39,000 acres and 61 square miles across four townships: 22,080 in Lincoln and 5,760 each in Sigel, Dwight and Bloomfield. DTE says it has 21,000 acres under contract for wind development with about 100 landowners and is talking with other landowners.
“It’s obviously one of the biggest ones we’ve seen lately,” Smith said of the project.
More than 900 mailings were sent to landowners in the area telling of the March 30 meeting, he said.