BAD AXE – An ordinance amendment creating a wind overlay district for the Apple Blossom Wind Farm is one step closer to reality following action by the Huron County Planning Commission Wednesday.
County planners voted to submit Geronimo Wind Energy, LLC’s wind overlay district application to the Huron County Board of Commissioners for final approval.
During a public hearing at the Expo Center Wednesday, David Shiflett, lead developer for Geronimo Energy in Pigeon, explained the project could consist of up to 73 turbines and an assessed value of $159 million. He said the local tax revenue to the local area would be about $2.8 million, and $1.2 million will be paid to participating landowners.
To date, the company already has invested quite a bit of money, and Shiflett said he’s also made a considerable personal investment through money paid to local businesses for lodging, meals, clothes, supplies, etc.
“We’re here for the long run,” he said.
Geronimo Energy, LLC is a utility-scale wind energy developer based in Edina, Minn., with two active wind farms in Minnesota and a pipeline of about 40 wind farms in various stages of development throughout the Midwest. The Apple Blossom Wind Farm project came about after Geronimo acquired a project that was being developed by Midland Energy.
A number of residents spoke during Wednesday’s public hearing, including those who live within the boundaries of the proposed wind district, which is located on the west side of the Thumb and includes portions of Fairhaven, McKinley and Winsor townships.
Those living within the district all were in favor of the project, and reasons cited included the economic and environmental benefits that will result from the wind development.
In regard to concerns the state may eliminate personal property tax, which is the only tax wind companies pay on wind turbines, Shiflett said the company is committed to working with the area in the event that happens. He said Geronimo wants to be accepted in the community, and while property owners of smaller parcels traditionally have been left out of wind projects, Geronimo includes them. He said a smaller landowner gets a minimum of $1,000 a year.
McKinley Township Clerk Michael Stevenson asked the board to remember that even if the tax situation changes with the state, the revenue inside the overlay doesn’t change.
“It’s still a benefit to our county,” he said. “We can’t just say because the taxes are gone, there’s no benefit to the constituents. McKinley Township is a big chunk of this, and our friends and relatives that live in those areas are going to benefit quite a bit.”
Some in attendance indicated they had questions about the district, including whether the developers would do anything about wind turbine shadow flicker on nearby homes. However, planners noted the public hearing only was for comments – it was not a question and answer period.
Valerie McCallum, of Lake Township, was concerned about how close some of the district boundaries are to the shoreline. She said the U.S. Fish and Wild Life has recommended a 3-mile turbine setback from the shoreline.
McCallum recommend the district boundaries be changed to protect the shoreline, which is one of the county’s natural resources, she said.
Following the public comment portion of the meeting and prior to the board’s vote, Planning Commissioners Clark Brock, Ervin Haley, Fred Hasen and Joel Weber each acknowledged they have leases with wind developers, however the land being leased is not in the Apple Blossom Wind Farm district so they would not abstain from voting.
The planning commission’s vote to recommend the ordinance to the county board of commissioners for adoption was unanimous.
In other business during Wednesday’s meeting, the board:
• Agreed to meet with a Michigan Aeronautics Commission official to discuss creating a county airport ordinance during the planning commission’s next regular meeting.
• Scheduled a special meeting in regard to a second expansion project that’s being planned by Blue Diamond Steel Castings. That meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in Room 305 of the County Building.
• Discussed a County Recreation Plan that the planning commission will have to hold a public hearing on in the future to receive public input prior to the plan’s adoption.
The Huron County Planning Commission’s next regular meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. July 6 in Room 305 of the County Building.
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