BAD AXE — Since Lincoln Township is taking steps to develop its own zoning procedures, the issue of a new wind overlay district will go back to the Huron County Planning Commission.
On the advice of its corporation counsel, the Huron County Board of Commissioners voted 5-1 Tuesday morning to send the issue back to the planning commission after a lengthy public hearing in the meeting room of the Huron Expo Center at the Huron Community Fairgrounds.
Commissioner Clark Elftman voted against the resolution, and Commissioner Dave Peruski was absent.
DTE Energy has proposed a wind overlay district covering Lincoln, Dwight, Sigel and Bloomfield townships.
The majority of the turbines would be located in Lincoln Township, over 22,080 acres. The remainder would be located on 5,760 acres each in the remaining townships.
While currently governed by county zoning, Lincoln Township on Aug. 8 took action that would lead to formation of its own planning commission and master plan.
One resolution passed imposes “a moratorium on the issuance of permits, licenses or approvals for … construction of wind energy systems.”
A DTE official at the commission meeting called the move by Lincoln Township a “late-night maneuver” to stall the issue.
Ron Chriss, regional relations manager for DTE, told the board, “This is your opportunity to lead” by approving the district.
The board set a deadline of 60 days for the planning commission to act, as they acknowledged that the planners did not have the information about Lincoln Township’s desire to self-zone when the planning commission recommended that the board approve the overlay zone last month.
If the board were to approve the district, voters have a right to file a valid petition to take the issue to referendum.
Commissioners Rich Swartzendruber and John Bodis said that the people would have no say in the matter if the board vetoed the application.
After hearing dozens of opinions from residents, wind industry officials and attorneys, the majority of county commissioners supported sending the proposal back to the planning commission.
Elftman told the Tribune that the reason he voted against the resolution was that “It’s gone far enough. A lot of effort was put into getting this to this point. This is just dragging our feet as far as I’m concerned.”
Steve Allen, counsel for the county, said prior to the public hearing that Lincoln Township had requested to be pulled from the overlay district in light of two ordinances that were adopted earlier this month.
“We don’t have the authority to pull the township out,” Allen said. “We still have a valid ordinance and will have a valid zoning ordinance until which time Lincoln Township enacts an interim zoning ordinance. And at that time, we’re preempted, no matter where we are in the process, we’re preempted.”
He predicted “complications” if the board moved forward with the vote since Lincoln Township wants to oversee its own zoning.
Commissioner John Nugent made the motion to send the issue back to the planning commission before the scheduled public hearings so it could be tabled and sent back to new business. The public would then be able to comment on it before any action was taken.
Two residents of the proposed overlay zone had requested public hearings in which they addressed the board:
• Don Rice of Lincoln Township called the recent years’ advent of wind turbines throughout the county “the destruction of this county.”
• Sue Lange of Bloomfield Township said that her two autistic sons’ sensory perception is very sensitive, and that they could have an adverse reaction to things like infrasound and flicker caused by the wind turbines.
“What happens if my sons can’t stay in their home?” she asked. “What do we do? Where do we go?”
“If it was your child, would you be voting yes for this, or would you do everything in your power to stop it?”
Many residents and landowners from both sides of the issue spoke during the two and half hour public hearing.