Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Michigan
During Tuesday’s regular Board of Commissioners meeting, Board Chairman John Nugent said he has concerns about changes the planning commissioners made after receiving proposed ordinance changes from the county’s Wind Energy Zoning Committee, an ad hoc committee created by county commissioners in early 2014 to investigate wind energy and advise the planning commission.
After more than a year investigating and deliberating the regulations necessary for safely siting wind turbines in the county, the Huron County Planning Commission hopes to finally remove the proposed ordinance from its agenda after next week.
Zach Kramer of Minden City was the first to give his story. He said some residents are forced to sign contracts that forbid them from making a complaint. He said, “Individuals should be concerned about doing the right thing versus collecting another check.” Kramer continued, “Right or wrong, let's think of our neighbors and not just our check books.”
Among the revisions the board voted in favor of adopting was increasing the setback to 1,640 feet from non-participating property lines. ...The board also voted to adopt a proposed revision that would require wind turbine developers to ensure the existence of funds for decommissioning turbines by buying bonds.
Dorman said if voters approve the language, the ordinance goes into effect as is. If voters reject the language, a new ordinance would need to be written, he said.
Following the hearing, planners are expected to either make a recommendation to county commissioners or table a decision. The Nov. 4 hearing comes after a moratorium preventing new wind energy projects in the 16 townships expires.
Slowing the process of getting a new wind energy ordinance for the county isn’t bothering some residents. “I feel there’s a tendency, a human tendency, (of) ‘Let’s finally get rid of this thing and pass something,’ ” Keith Iseler of Port Hope said Wednesday when county planners met, commending their efforts before again reviewing a new rulebook for wind turbines.
The task of creating a new wind energy ordinance became taller Wednesday, when county planners got another redo of the draft from a Grand Rapids acoustics firm. It arrived about two minutes before their 7 p.m. meeting.
As officials further debate the chapters of a new rule book for wind projects, the threat of litigation against the county is becoming a recurring concern. In July, the attorney for the board of commissioners, Stephen Allen, cautioned that new wind energy regulations should be based on reason, rather than opinion.
Seneca Township residents voted 135-130 Tuesday to repeal a township wind turbine ordinance approved unanimously by the township board of trustees in March.
The extension will give officials more time to finish an overhaul of the 2010 wind energy ordinance. The new version will act as a more defined rule book developers must follow if they want to build projects in the county leading the state in the number of wind turbines, with 328.
On Tuesday, Board Chair John Nugent made county commissioners well aware of their power to change any proposed new regulations for wind turbines coming from county planners. But basing a change on opinion, rather than reason, it wouldn’t be wise, according to the board of commissioners’ attorney, Steve Allen.
Clark Brock, the county planning commission chairman, came to a realization Wednesday. “We are not going to get through this document tonight,” he said, after planners spent more than two hours forging through proposed new rules governing wind turbines.
Following the ordinance approval, Raymond Ellis II, of Snover, submitted a petition June 16 asking for a referendum of the ordinance, meaning that the ordinance is frozen until township residents vote on it in November’s general election. Greg Dorman, Moore Township supervisor, said if residents vote down the ordinance than the township board will have to re-write it.
Township officials have not stood by waiting for the decision. Essex Township enacted new regulations on wind farms, but did not include restrictions on height, distance and setbacks. Dallas Township enacted an interim zoning ordinance in February that restricts the height of wind energy systems to 380 feet. Bengal Township is also considering a zoning ordinance.
During most meetings in the past year, planners have sat in front of five-inch binders detailing wind developers’ project plans. Other communications, from letters to emails regarding wind energy, flood the building and zoning office. When planers ask Smith of progress toward unfinished business items unrelated to wind energy, he typically says he has not had time.
Voters in Huron County’s Meade Township have given a big thumbs down to a prospective Detroit Edison wind energy project. On May 5, voters rejected a proposal to allow Detroit Edison to erect up to 48 wind turbines in the township. The vote was 222 to 147, which is slightly more than a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
Wind turbines would face stiffer regulation under proposed changes to the county’s wind ordinance. After more than a year of work, a committee drafting the changes is “99.6 percent” done, according to David Peruski, committee chair and county commissioner.
Attorneys say a deal made with Geronimo Energy will save the county from being sued after it made a last-minute decision to disallow the developer from building its wind turbine project.
A ballot question that’s gained perhaps the most attention asks whether a wind energy project with up to 58 turbines should continue in Meade Township. Residents, township officials and attorneys tussled for months at meetings to decide whether areas should be approved for wind development.