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Judge orders wind company’s tower to topple

FAIRFIELD TWP., Mich. – A 262-foot tower set up last fall to monitor weather for a potential wind energy project must come down, a judge ruled Monday.

The tower built by Orisol Energy U.S. Inc. is in violation of Fairfield Township zoning ordinances, ruled Lenawee County Circuit Judge Margaret M.S. Noe. She granted a motion by the township to affirm a February decision by Fairfield Township’s zoning board of appeals that the tower violates zoning requirements.

Orisol had the tower and weather monitoring equipment installed on property on Arnold Highway in November in preparation for a potential wind energy project. It is one of three companies working on plans to install commercial wind turbines in Riga, Ogden, Fairfield and Palmyra townships.

A legal battle developed over the tower after Orisol neglected to obtain a permit from the township before erecting it. The company did have permits from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Michigan Department of Transportation aeronautics division.

Responding to township officials, Orisol sought permission to keep the tower in December but it was denied. The zoning board of appeals reviewed an application from the company for a waiver but voted to deny it after a public hearing in February.

Orisol went to court, arguing the tower is not excluded by the township’s zoning ordinance and a 39-foot height limit for buildings in agricultural zones does not apply to towers.

An attorney for the township filed a lengthy motion in June, asking the court to affirm the zoning board of appeals decision and rule the tower a nuisance that must be removed. Attorney Carson Tucker of Farmington Hills referred to it as a “262-foot monstrosity” that is harming local citizens and neighbors.

The case had been scheduled for a jury trial in February. Monday’s ruling requires the tower to be removed unless further court action is taken to grant a delay.