Library filed under Zoning/Planning from Michigan
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.
Clinton County commissioners issued a special-use permit as the townships where the project would be located ceded zoning to the county prior to the project’s approval by the county board. But those townships subsequently passed ordinances that restricted height and other factors for the project.
The updates would include new decibel limits focusing specifically on low-frequency sounds produced by wind energy equipment, as measured along an adjacent property’s nearest property line. As proposed, applicants seeking approval for a wind energy system also would need to furnish zoning officials with plans for scheduled maintenance of the equipment.
Three townships did not have the authority to enact and enforce the ordinances they passed last year to restrict a $120 million wind energy project, a Clinton County circuit judge has ruled. ...Okemos attorney Bill Fahey, who represented Dallas Township in writing its ordinance said each township has the right to appeal the ruling.
Lawyers for Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships countered, saying the additional restrictions are consistent with the county’s special-use permit and should be allowed to stand to protect the “health, safety and welfare” of township residents. When the arguments concluded, Tahvonen said he wanted more time to read the legal briefs submitted by each side and would rule “in short order,” but not immediately.
"At the May 19, 2009, Board of Trustees meeting, the first reading of the draft ordinance was withdrawn from the board agenda, and the ordinance has never returned,” Mullen said. He said his reason for revisiting the proposed ordinance was a recent application for a solar energy system in the township and that, without approval of the ordinance, the application could not be approved.
Currently, the county's ordinance sets a maximum noise level of 35 decibels for wind energy systems as measured at the property line of the generator's site. Proposed changes would increase that noise level to 40 decibels in areas with most zoning classifications -- other than farm-forest 2, a rural zone with relatively low allowable building density where the limit would remain at 35. "Higher-intensity uses typically have higher sound associated with them," said Doernenburg.
John McGraw, a Troy lawyer who spoke on behalf of the townships during Tuesday's hearing, said the attorneys for both sides will try to determine "over the next few days" if the project can go forward and whether Forest Hill Energy would even have to apply for a license.
Turbines must be 2,000 feet from non-participating property owners' homes and three times the turbine height from non-participating property lines. ...In terms of sound for Paris, there will be an allowance of 35 decibels during the day and 30 at night for non-leased property, and 40 during the day and 35 at night for leased property.
When taken in total the restrictions make it highly unlikely that a commercial wind energy conversion system could set up operation in Marshall County.
"With the instability, uncertainty and lack of direction related to the issues pertaining to wind energy throughout the State, the Huron County Board of Commissioners will not schedule any additional wind turbine action on the Board's agenda until there is resolution to these issues," the letter states.
The Akron Township Planning Commission and also the Fairgrove Planning Commission each held a hearing this week on NextEra Energy Resources' proposed "Tuscola Wind II" development in those two townships.
In January, the company cleared one regulatory hurdle when it received a land-use permit from Clinton County. But in the months prior, each of the three townships passed ordinances that could hinder Forest Hill's efforts to begin construction before the end of the year.
County officials have been looking at what revisions might be needed to its 2009 wind energy systems ordinance -- capping wind turbine sound at 35 decibels -- to be defendable in court. Turbine developers have called the limit "exclusionary zoning" that essentially eliminates energy systems, compared to the 55-decibel state of Michigan guideline.
The changes to the wind project ordinance were brought to a special election after township residents filed a petition to have the changes put up for a vote with a referendum. Alan Jon Burrell, Reading Township supervisor said the special election will give everyone in Reading Township to weigh in on the wind farm ordinance.
Bengal Township has joined the list of local governments imposing stricter wind turbine ordinances than current Clinton County regulations. In a 5-0 vote during a special meeting Thursday night, the Bengal Township Board of Trustees joined Dallas and Essex townships in approving a more restrictive measure.
About 150 people filled the township hall for the reconsideration of the ordinance by board members who had declined, on a vote of two in favor and three against, to approve virtually the same ordinance two weeks earlier. The ordinance restricts wind turbines to a height that developers say is not feasible for their 40-tower project.
For four years, the developers of a $123 million, Clinton County wind-turbine farm have steered the project through opposition from some residents who learned their homes and property could be subject to the noise, ice throws, flickering shadows and financial impacts of 40 whirling towers each standing 427 feet tall.