Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Michigan
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.
After listening to input from 26 people, including members of the public, and Detroit Edison representatives and attorneys, the Meade Township Planning Commission voted to table the decision until its next regular meeting at to give commission members time to research new developments and information.
“This will be an ongoing process,” Reilly said of the study and discussion by the planners. While the Mason County Board of Commissioners has in place a moratorium on development of any more wind parks in Mason County at least through the end of this year, Reilly said the planning commission isn’t under a deadline. “We’re not going to rush it,” Reilly said.
The Reading Township Zoning Board of Appeals has decided to table a decision on whether or not to grant permission to Own Energy to construct a meteorological tower for wind resource assessment.
After a presentation citing state government sources and others, Martis said wind energy is “not good policy for the state.” He recommended the board retain an acoustical expert to help revise Meade’s wind ordinance, and gave suggestions for sound levels, setbacks and decommissioning of wind turbines.
County officials say an outside and independent source is needed because no one on county government boards has the expertise as it relates to sound from turbines. The need also is driven by input from several residents who have complained of noise from turbines nearby their homes.
Municipalities must adopt wind energy ordinances before wind turbines can be erected. And Lake Township’s proposal differs from the county in key areas — mostly in its restrictions and regulation.
The draft sets stricter setbacks for wind turbines from residences, and from Lake Huron, Rush Lake and game areas; reduces maximum sound levels; provides broader protection for wildlife and endangered species; defines specific height requirements; addresses shadow flicker; establishes a complaint procedure; specifies site placement requirements; and sets requirements for security bonding and decommissioning.