HURON COUNTY – Officials discussed the ramifications a Michigan House bill regarding wind energy would have on the area, and the consensus is, if passed, HB 4254 will not bode well for the county.
The bill, which was introduced Feb. 13 by Rep. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, would prohibit local governments from banning wind generators in their zoning ordinances and establish property line setback, noise and maximum generator size regulations.
The problem with the bill is it does not take into account planning basics for zoning, said Russ Lundberg, Huron County Director of Building and Zoning, Tuesday evening during the Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting of the whole.
The county recently adopted a wind overlay ordinance which would be trumped by the House bill if passed, he said.
“If the state standard goes into effect, it in effect nullifies the ordinance we have already put into place and require that all communities follow the certain standards,” Lundberg said.
He said there are some in the area who feel the county’s standard is too lax. And if they feel the county’s standards are too lax, then there are going to be a lot of unhappy people if this bill passes.
The bill states a wind energy system shall be permitted as a special or conditional land use in all zoning classifications subject to certain requirements.
First, the wind energy system has to be built at a distance from all property lines not leased or owned by the owner of the system that is not less than 1.5 times the height of the system tower, including the top of the blade in its vertical position.
Lundberg said the county’s current ordinance requires wind energy systems to be built at a distance of two times the height of the system tower, including the top of the blade in its vertical position.
Other provisions in the bill include a minimum vertical clearance from the blade tip to the ground shall not be less than 20 feet.
The county’s ordinance requires a minimum vertical clearance from the blade tip to the ground to be not less than 75 feet, Lundberg said.
Also, the bill states the sound created by the system shall not exceed 55 dBA at the closest property line of property not served by the system.<> Commissioner Dave Peruski said the county’s ordinance requires sound created by the system shall not exceed 50 dBA at the closest property line of property not served by the system.
The bill would also require systems to be in compliance with all applicable state construction and electrical codes and aviation regulations.
The county’s ordinance currently requires the same, Lundberg said.
The bill also states a local unit of government may designate up to 10 percent of the land under the jurisdiction of the local unit of government as land not available for the location of a wind energy system.
The bill goes on to read a local unit of government may impose a reasonable fee for the review and approval of a special or conditional land use under this section.
The county currently charges a reasonable fee for review and approval of a special or conditional land use under this section, Lundberg said.
The bill states a local unit of government also may require from the owner of the system a bond or other security to cover the costs reasonably associated with the installation, maintenance or removal of a wind energy system.
Peruski said the county’s ordinance already requires this as well.
Before a wind energy system is installed, the bill would require the owner of the system to notify the owner’s servicing electric supplier that the owner intends to install an interconnected wind energy system generator.
The bill also requires all interconnected customer owned wind energy system generators to comply with all applicable Michigan Public Service Commission and electric supplier interconnection requirements.
Lundberg said the county’s ordinance currently requires the same.
Also, if the bill were to be passed, it would mean an owner of a wind energy system shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the system complies with the bill’s requirements.
Peruski said this means that even though the county has decided what would be a nuisance – which is anything less than the standards set in the ordinance – it wouldn’t matter because the bill would in effect completely ignore the county’s wishes.
Commissioner Don Pascarella said he felt there were too many holes in the bill and therefore was in opposition to it.
Peruski agreed, saying commissioners should adopt a resolution opposing the bill, which was referred to the House Intergovernmental, Urban and Regional Affairs Committee Feb. 13.
“I personally would like to see the board send a resolution to Lansing saying, “˜this is not allowable,'” he said.
Because Tuesday’s meeting was a meeting of the whole, commissioners could take no formal action.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the County Building.
The Huron Daily Tribune
18 April 2007