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Jury to decide whether weather tower stays

ADRIAN, Mich. —

A two-day jury trial was scheduled in February to decide if a wind energy company’s weather testing tower in Fairfield Township should be allowed to stay.

Orisol Energy U.S. Inc. appealed to Lenawee County Circuit Court after the township’s zoning board of appeals refused to grant a variance for the 262-foot tower on Arnold Highway. The board stated the tower is covered by a 39-foot height limit and is not allowed on agriculturally zoned land.

An attorney for Orisol has claimed the township zoning ordinance does not exclude the meteorological tower and that the company should not be required to apply for a variance.

The tower was put up in November to collect weather data to aid in citing potential wind turbines for a commercial wind farm energy project.

At a pre-trial hearing on Monday, Judge Margaret M.S. Noe scheduled a jury trial for the case on Feb. 28 and 29. She also set a Nov. 1 deadline for both sides to complete research in the case.

At a hearing last month, Noe denied a motion by township attorneys asking for an immediate ruling that the tower is a nuisance, ordered torn down and fines imposed.

Township attorney Carson Tucker of Farmington Hills referred to the tower as a “262-foot monstrosity” that was harming local citizens and neighbors.

Orisol attorney Eric Guerin of Kalamazoo argued in his complaint the tower is not subject to height restrictions the township zoning ordinance sets for buildings. Permits for the tower were obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation aeronautics division.

The township’s zoning board of appeals conducted a hearing in February and rejected Orisol’s variance request for the meteorological tower, two days after the township board voted for a one-year moratorium on siting wind towers in the township.

The tower violated height and setback restrictions, the board stated in its ruling.

“It was also considered that accepting the variance would open the township up to others who could construct as they please, setting precedent,” board minutes stated.