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Lake Effect Energy asks state to review Emmet wind ordinance

HARBOR SPRINGS – Wind turbine developer Lake Effect Energy Corporation, of Harbor Springs, says it filed a request for an investigation Wednesday with the Michigan Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit into how Emmet County developed its wind energy ordinance.

The Harbor Springs-based company, which specializes in point-of-use turbines, has been in a deadlock with Emmet County on the 35 decibel wind restriction within its wind energy system in recent months. Lake Effect Energy has applied for an 11 kilowatt, personal use turbine for a client near Cross Village, but has been denied previously because the proposed turbine would exceed 35 decibels at the property line.

“It is our contention Emmet County is in violation of the Michigan State Constitution (enrolled Senate Bill 213, Public Act 295 of 2008, signed into law on Oct. 6, 2008),” said Chris Stahl, Lake Effect Energy Corporation president, via email Wednesday.

Lake Effect and other companies have accused the 35 decibels limit of being “exclusionary zoning,” meaning under the ordinance there is no possibility of wind turbines being built. Michigan has set the decibel sound limit at 55 decibels.

“Our company has made over 12 attempts to correct this matter since 2009,” Stahl said. “Our last attempt on Feb. 28, 2011 at a (Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee) meeting, the ZOAC committee made it clear that they understand the adopted (decibel) level is less than ambient sound outside on a quiet day. The ZOAC states a wind turbine must make less noise than ambient noise. The ZOAC committee made it clear that they understand it would not be possible; unable to be, exist, happen, etc. to have a “point of use” wind system within Emmet County with the adopted (decibel) level.”

The Public Integrity Unit was created by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette in February as a resource for the public to fight corruption in state and local government. Toted by the attorney general as the “no Kwames” division – after the former Detroit mayor – of his office, the unit is expected to work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes by public bodies of government.

Since February, the Public Integrity Unit has primarily brought charges on public officials for embezzlement.

Emmet County attorney Kathy Abbott said Thursday morning she was unaware of the filing.

During an interview before leaving his post with Emmet County in May, former Planning and Zoning director Brentt Michalek said he felt confident in the process the county used in creating the ordinance in 2009 and also pointed to the county spending $2,000 to hire a private consultant to review the ordinance in 2010, as proof of due process.

A request for information by the Michigan Attorney General’s office was not returned at press time.