CADILLAC – One more meeting should wrap up a revision of Wexford County’s proposed wind turbine ordinance, but the possibility remains to either amend the planning ordinance to include the new wind turbine standards or wait until the county’s entire ordinance is revised.
The decision to either amend the ordinance or wait to incorporate the wind turbine portion into the ordinance rewrite is ultimately in the hands of the Wexford County Board of Commissioners, county Zoning Administrator Mike Green said recently.
The Planning and Zoning Commission hopes to finish revising the wind turbine ordinance at its March 9 meeting, Green said.
Last fall the planning commission decided to revisit requirements for wind turbine setbacks after property owners in Clam Lake Township – an area of Wexford County targeted for wind energy development – expressed concerns that proposed setbacks were too restrictive.
A setback regulates how far a structure or piece of equipment, such as a wind turbine, should be placed from a property line. The setback helps guarantee neighbors will have a minimum buffer between them and the structure in question. In the case of the wind turbines, the setbacks apply to property lines of property leased by the wind developer.
Clam Lake Township property owners balked at setbacks of 2,000 feet as too restrictive and limiting to wind development.
In response, planning and zoning is considering changing setbacks to three times the height of a wind turbine tower, as measured to the tip of a blade at maximum height.
The tallest wind turbines at Heritage Sustainable Energy’s Stoney Corners Wind Farm are about 475 feet from ground to top of the blades at maximum height. Applying the new proposed standard, a wind turbine of that height could be placed as close as 1,425 feet to a leaseholder’s property line.
Wind turbine setbacks to occupied dwellings are proposed to be set at two times the height of the entire turbine, from ground to the top of the blade at its highest point.
Also, wind turbine developers are required to provide studies as part of the ordinance. The planning and zoning commission is expected to more clearly define who is to perform and verify the required studies and reports.
The latest version of the proposed wind turbine ordinance could be considered as an amendment to the existing ordinance. Amending the ordinance could put that section of the ordinance on a fast track as compared to waiting for the entire ordinance to be revised and rewritten, a project which has been in the works since November of last year.
The most current planning and zoning ordinance dates back to 1995.
Revising the entire ordnance could take at least several months, Green said.
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