CROSS VILLAGE – A new website is taking aim at the ongoing debates about the noise level in the Emmet County wind ordinance.
Harbor Springs-based Lake Effect Energy Corporation, a wind energy producer, launched the website www.emmetcountymichigan.com Thursday in an attempt to generate public support and pressure on the Emmet County Planning Commission who has been debating the 35 decibel sound restriction for wind turbines under the county’s November 2009 Wind Ordinance.
“Michigan Looks to Expand Renewable Energy Portfolio – One County decides not to participate?” the website header reads.
The site plays on Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s announcement this week that Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vt., plans to use a facility in Saginaw to manufacture large wind turbines, positioning Michigan as a prime wind developer in the Midwest. Lake Effect Energy, which recently had a 55 decibel turbine approved in West Traverse Township under a separate ordinance, is hoping the county will raise its sound level to mirror the 55 decibel statewide regulation.
But, the Emmet County Planning Commission is reluctant to change the ordinance based on a single request – especially with the possibility of opening the county up to larger utility scale wind turbines without some form of control over what is built.
An Emmet County-hired wind energy expert supported the county ordinance in November, while another private expert questioned it last week. So, the final decision will likely come down to the January meeting.
“I think the planning commission is someone stuck about what to do at this point,” said Brentt Michalek, Emmet County Planning, Zoning and Construction Resources director. “At this point it could go either way.”
The website encourages members of the public to e-mail their opinions to state officials, local leaders and the News-Review editor.
Lake Effect Energy has a lot to lose in the ordinance battle. In addition to the hoping to change the ordinance for future use, it has a permit request for a home-scale 20 kilowatt, 120-foot wind turbine in for Bliss Gardens Farm & Community Kitchen on Hill Road near Cross Village.
A $40,500 federal tax credit and a $33,750 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant are also at stake for the Lake Effect Energy project.
“That was supposed to keep us going through the winter,” said Chris Stahl, president of Lake Effect Energy said.
Stahl has seven employees working on a per-project basis.
“If this doesn’t go through, I’ll have to even lay myself off,” he said, explaining his website and reasoning for taking on the county ordinance directly.
Stahl said Lake Effect Energy has no current intention to take legal action.
The website was brought to the attention of the Emmet County Board of Commissioners during their monthly meeting Thursday night. Emmet County chairman Jim Tamlyn said he felt confident in the work of the planning commission.
No final decisions have been made on the proposed Bliss Gardens wind turbine or county wind ordinance. The Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to address the issue at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, in the Board of Commissioners Room at the Emmet County Building in downtown Petoskey.
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