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Zoning Board nixes variance for wind turbine

CROSS VILLAGE – The Emmet County Zoning Board of Appeals denied a variance for a proposed wind turbine Tuesday evening.

Harbor Springs-based Lake Effect Energy Corporation is seeking to install a 120-foot, 20 kilowatt turbine point-of-use energy generator on the property of Bliss Gardens Farm and Community Kitchen on Hill Road south of Cross Village.

However, as it is outlined in the plans submitted to Emmet County, the wind turbine would exceed the 35 decibel sound restriction on wind energy systems. The Hill Road turbine would have a peak decibel level of more than 40 decibels.

Emmet County planning and zoning director Brentt Michalek told the zoning board of appeals during the meeting that the plot of land was simply “not large enough” for the turbine to be installed anywhere on the proposed Hill Road property.

A diagram developed by the county showed two large circular areas where the sound would dissipate to the approved level. Those lines extended onto neighboring properties.

Lake Effect Energy owner Chris Stahl told the board that there weren’t any small, home-scale turbines that would meet the county sound levels, hence he was requesting a variance. He also pointed out that the neighbors who own homes in the area have all shown support for the project.

However, after much discussion about whether permitting the turbine would set precedent in the county, the board ultimately said it would.

“I think this should be decided by the planning commission,” said Bill Alexander, Emmet County Zoning Board of Appeals chairman.

The board voted to deny granting a variance, which will put the project back in the hands of the Emmet County Planning Commission at their meeting 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6.

Cross Village shows support

The township of Cross Village has previously stated its support for the project.

Although it does not have its own zoning for wind energy systems, the township does make recommendations to the county planning commission and zoning board of appeals on specific cases.

In November, the Cross Village Township Board of Trustees voted 3-1, and one vote of no prejudice to support the proposed Hill Road wind turbine.

Gene Reck, Cross Village Township supervisor, was among the votes in support.

“My personal opinion is that the current ordinance sound level requirement of 35 (decibels is) too low,” Reck stated in an e-mail to the News-Review. “In addition, the project has been in the works since before the ordinance so should be given some slack.”