Newer, more energy-friendly political winds are beginning to blow in the state. Pending Michigan legislation regarding the regulation of windmills by local zoning bodies, local communities may be impacted.
Planning and zoning officials in Leighton Township have discussed the implications contained within the pending Michigan House of Representatives Bills 4648 and 4649, and its impact, should the senate approve them. The proposed legislation, introduced in June 2006 by Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, would allow the construction of electricity-generating windmills in all zoning districts of a township, if the windmills meet certain state criteria for noise and setbacks.
“If it goes through, I can see some restrictions that would serve to limit zoning powers by the Planning Commission,” said former Leighton Zoning Administrator Dar VanderArk at his last meeting of the Planning Commission. “Any restrictions would probably be seen more in residential areas. Location must be considered when it comes to these things, coastal Michigan, for example, is a very good spot for them. Further inland, they don’t pick up as much wind and may raise issues of efficiency.”
One trustee suggested that using solar energy may be a better form of alternative power to seek.
State legislative efforts have moved to develop various areas of alternative sources of energy, especially after a February proposal sent to the desk of Governor Granholm by J. Peter Lark, head of the Public Service Commission. The proposal involved tripling the amount of electricity in Michigan that residents gain from wind and other renewable resources within a decade. A legislative analysis reported that Michigan has enough potential wind energy to power 46 percent of the state’s 3.7 million homes, which currently use only about 1 percent of that energy.
Planning and zoning commissioners in Leighton and other localities throughout the state have expressed some reservations about the state’s overriding local zoning decisions. Some officials are concerned that zoning authorities will lose a certain degree of autonomy traditionally exercised without interference.
“I don’t like it much,” said Commissioner Dave Wright, who later referred to the windmill farms as “a monstrosity.”
By Russell Slater
2 April 2007
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