Auburn Township Zoning Board members told a standing-room-only crowd this week that the township needs to regulate wind turbines or risk countless Board of Zoning Appeals rulings and possible lawsuits in the future.
About 80 residents on Tuesday squeezed into the old township hall across from the administration building, after Fire Chief John Phillips ruled that the initial meeting place was too small to contain the crowd safely.
Many of the residents said they had received an unsigned flyer urging them to attend the meeting.
“We know there was a notice sent out to the township, but some things in it were not necessarily accurate,” Zoning Board Chairman Bret Jordan told the crowd.
The flyer had stated that a proposed zoning amendment would allow 200-foot wind turbines on properties 3 acres or more in size, and would create noise problems and other nuisances to neighboring properties.
Jordan said that, under the proposed amendment, most residential lots would not support 200-foot towers. Although a parcel of any size could have a tower, setback rules would determine that a tower could not be tall enough to fall onto a neighboring property.
“We understand that noise, safety, and ice are three main topics of concern,” Jordan said. He told the crowd that he personally had researched the existing wind turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, and had found it to be quiet, and safe enough for people to touch it.
He added that officials at the Science Center had told him that the noise level averaged 40 decibels, or equal to a low conversation or a quiet suburban neighborhood. And although ice can occasionally form on the blades, that creates an imbalance that shuts off the tower automatically.
Any ice that falls off the blades is typically wafer thin, and lands at the tower’s base, Jordan said.
Munn Road resident Michael Ryan asked whether the township’s part-time zoning inspector would be able to monitor the turbines regularly, and whether the proposed amendment contained requirements for bonding, liability insurance, or processes for dismantling the tower when it was no longer used.
Jordan said those concerns would be taken into consideration.
“I’ve seen them in California, and have seen them destroy the bird population and cause cattle malfunctioning,” Waterford Green resident Jim Hanson said. “To me, it just seems like a stupid idea.”
Longtime Realtor Sandy Mesec, a 45 year Auburn resident, said she believes that wind turbines have a negative effect on property values.
“People want open space and green,” Mesec said. “They don’t want towers.”
Jordan said the zoning board shares many of the residents’ concerns, but that the BZA’s recent approval of two wind turbines for The Pond, a Washington Street ice rink, means that the township needs to regulate any new tower construction.
“It’s already happening,” Jordan said. “We’re trying to come up with a zoning ordinance that will restrict them.
“We’re establishing an ordinance that sets the ground rules,” he added. “We’re not necessarily saying we want them, but two are already coming, so we want to set the rules for others.”
Jordan said the board will consider the comments as it writes a final draft of the amendment.
“We will send the final draft to trustees, and they will hold public hearings on it and discuss it further,” Jordan said. “Trustees can then approve, deny, or modify it.”
The Zoning Board meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, and trustees meet the first and third Monday.