CROSS VILLAGE – A proposed wind turbine in Cross Village has brought a less than year-old Emmet County wind turbine ordinance under scrutiny.
A representative of Lake Effect Energy Corporation, based in Harbor Springs, approached the Emmet County Planning Commission during its monthly meeting Thursday, Oct. 7, to request consideration for amending the sound limitations placed on potential wind energy systems in the county for a proposed wind turbine on Hill Road in Cross Village.
In November 2009, planning commission officials elected to enact an ordinance to pre-emptively zone to create additional wind turbine controls. The ordinance limits noise output by a wind turbine to 35 decibels for systems more than 60 feet tall, among other restrictions.
Lake Effect Energy is proposing a 100-foot, 20 kilowatt wind turbine on a contract for Bliss Gardens Farm & Community Kitchen on Hill Road in Cross Village, according to the company’s website.
Christopher Stahl, Lake Effect Energy president, said in an e-mail prior to the meeting that the project has already received a $40,000 federal grant and is expected to create seven jobs during its construction. To keep the federal grant, the project will need to be 20 percent complete by 2010.
However, Stahl contested Thursday that the county ordinance is hindering his project.
“The 35 decibels about eliminates every horizontal axis turbine out there,” Stahl said. “It would be doable for some turbines if it was an average, rather than making it a fixed number, because these systems create different noise ranges at different wind speeds. So, it’s hard to stick to one number.”
The Emmet County ordinance defines maximum noise levels as, “Any proposed (wind energy system) shall produce sound pressure levels that are no more than thirty-five (35) decibels as measured on the dB(A) scale at the property lines of the site in question. A manufacturer’s specification sheet or similar data shall be provided documenting decibel levels.”
Lake Effect Energy has not submitted a special use permit or formal request for an amendment, though Stahl said he could file paperwork as early as today, Monday.
After some discussion between Stahl and planning commission members about the way low frequency noise travels versus high frequency noise, Emmet County Planning Commission chairman John Eby said Stahl would have to demonstrate a specific hardship to get an amendment passed.
“Yeah, it’s a hardship for a certain case, but our question is: Does the zoning code by nature create a hardship?” Eby asked.
Stahl said “definitely.” Stahl said unless every project has a 500-foot setback, it will not be possible.
“Well, that is your opinion,” Eby replied.
Following the meeting, Stahl alerted several people – including the News-Review – about his take on the meeting via e-mail.
“Emmet County just crushed this project,” Stahl stated in the e-mail. “State and federal departments, grant writers, the agricultural producer and (Lake Effect Energy Corporation) worked on this for months getting funding in place and interconnection approved.”
Stahl went on to question, “How can one county in Michigan stop jobs and growth in a new, developing industry?”
“One county could affect the recovery of economic growth for our state,” he said. “As the employment situation remains bleak, Emmet County Planning Commission just helped Michigan’s unemployment rise.”
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