Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Michigan
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.
A report by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), a regulatory agency for public energy, communication and transportation services, shows utilities will meet a 10 percent renewable energy mandate set in 2008 by the end of this year. “Based on the most recent report, it appears that we will meet the 10 percent by 2015 (and not be) hindered by this moratorium,” said Judy Palnau, MPSC spokeswoman. That report also shows an excess amount of renewable energy credits.
Commissioners Sami Khoury, John Nugent, Dave Peruski and Ron Wruble voted for the resolution creating a moratorium, and Clark Elftman, Richard Swartzendruber and John Bodis voted against it. Following the 90 day period, commissioners will have the opportunity to extend the moratorium for another 90 days if the planned changes to the ordinance have not been made.
Wnd turbines went up rapidly in Missaukee County where there was no zoning to control where they could or could not be placed.
Although the Sherman Township Planning Commission decided once again to table the vote on a contentious wind turbine ordinance, officials are anxious to put the matter to rest. “Whatever is going to get this thing settled with the least amount of fighting,” planning commission Secretary Tasha Lapinski said.
About 150 residents packed into Huron County’s Circuit Courtroom Wednesday night to help county planners decide whether there should be a stop on wind energy development for up to six months. Planners voted 5-4 against recommending a wind moratorium. The final decision now rests with the county board of commissioners.
It took four hours and three votes, but Huron County commissioners have moved forward on a moratorium on wind energy. On Tuesday, the board voted 5-2 to send to the planning commission an amendment to the county’s wind ordinance. It would allow a six-month halt on wind development.
The ballot question will read: “The Meade Township Board approved an ordinance amendment to establish a wind overlay district on Nov. 11, 2014. This approval will allow the development of a wind energy project to continue in Meade Township. Should this ordinance amendment be approved, yes or no?”
A lawsuit in which residents living near the Lake Winds wind plant south of Ludington claimed the facility was making people sick has been settled out of court. Cary Shineldecker, one of the plaintiffs in the case, isn’t allowed to discuss details of the settlement, but is still allowed to talk about the alleged negative health effects that can be suffered by those who live near such facilities.
Mounting complaints spurred the Huron County Board of Commissioners to consider a moratorium on new wind park development for at least six months. During the board’s meeting Tuesday, Huron County Corporate Counsel Steve Allen said he has reviewed the proposal and he agrees a pause in wind development is appropriate.
Allen said the county could take a “breather” (moratorium) because the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act delegates policing power to a county for zoning issues for the health, safety and welfare of residents. Also of concern are court costs if the county is sued, which Allen said would add up even if the county were to win.
After meeting behind closed doors Tuesday to hear legal advice on putting a halt to wind energy development in the county for the next six months, county commissioners plan to open the discussion to the public next week. Following a 45-minute closed session, Board Chair John Nugent said an open discussion will be added to next week’s agenda to talk about a countywide wind energy moratorium.
In January, the Garden Peninsula Foundation entered a lawsuit against Heritage, claiming the company commenced operation of 14 wind turbines on the Garden Peninsula in 2012 without first obtaining an environmental impact assessment from a federal or state agency. The complaint also alleged the plaintiffs experienced “negative impacts to their health and well-being, use and enjoyment of their property and diminution in value of their property due to turbines”.
“I don’t know where this is all going to go,” County Commissioner John Nugent said Tuesday. “But we have to begin somewhere on trying to control the irresponsible spread of wind turbines.” On Tuesday, county commissioners voted 6-1 to pay up to $1,000 to Foster Swift, a Grand Rapids law firm, to draft paperwork for a moratorium on wind energy in Huron County.
Meade resident Rita Parsch’s petition for referendum, filed with the township board, sought to put on the May ballot the question of whether DTE Energy’s wind overlay district should be approved. The overlay map deems areas within the township suitable for the utility’s plan to site 40 wind turbines.
“A moratorium is in order at this point until that (wind) ordinance can be revised,” County Commissioner John Nugent said at Tuesday’s board of commissioners meeting. “I hope to bring a resolution to that effect to this board.”
The combination of greater setbacks and stricter modeling should provide greater safety margins to prevent a park from exceeding the sound limits, commissioners reasoned. The commission also wants it made more clear that any exceedence of the standards means a turbine is out of compliance.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it is confident that land area within three miles of the Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay shorelines needs to be protected from wind energy development. ...the federal conservancy agency recommends Huron County include in its wind energy ordinance a “three-mile buffer inland from the shoreline that precludes development of wind power projects,” according to an Oct. 20 letter sent to the county.
The prospect of siting about 50 more wind turbines in Huron County moved one step closer to reality Tuesday. In a 4-2 vote, Meade planners approved a wind energy overlay district for DTE Energy’s newest wind park planned for Meade and Colfax townships.