BAD AXE – The Huron County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on a resolution Tuesday morning that would impose a moratorium on any new wind overlay districts until the State of Michigan makes a determination regarding the various proposals to eliminate the personal property tax.
In the county’s wind energy overlay ordinance, the first step in creating a wind development is creating a wind overlay district. Developers request a wind overlay district through the planning commission and final approval is granted by the Huron County Board of Commissioners.
There are a number of wind development projects currently in the works that already have wind overlay districts. They include two projects by DTE Energy (Sigel and McKinley wind farms), one by Geronimo Wind Energy (Apple Blossom Wind Farm), another by Exelon Wind (Harvest Wind II), and another by RES Americas (Pheasant Run Wind Farm).
Huron County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith said the moratorium on new wind districts would not affect these projects. These projects will go forward, providing the developers meet all the zoning ordinance requirements during the site plan review process.
At this time, the only ongoing project that would be affected if this moratorium is approved is the Deerfield Wind Farm, he said. RES Americas officials previously noted that project consists of about 220 landowners and 26,000 acres in the northeast portion of the county.
RES Americas already has submitted an application for a wind overlay district for that project, and it’s on the agenda for the planning commission’s Oct. 5 meeting, Smith said.
He noted he just learned of the resolution about the moratorium Monday morning, and he didn’t want to make any speculations until he learned more information.
“We’re obviously going to go to the meeting tomorrow and see what the outcome is,” he told the Tribune on Monday.
The resolution outlines the history of wind developments in Huron County, and notes that when the issue was put on the election ballot, proponents of new wind overlay districts campaigned about the personal property tax revenue that would go to local units of government.
The resolution notes, however, that following the 2010 general election, there immediately were proposals in the new Legislature to eliminate the personal property tax.
“Whereas, during the first few months of 2011, the state Legislature and the governor’s office have enacted legislation that has substantially impacted the operation of local government throughout the state (… and) the threat of the loss of personal property tax as a revenue source for local government continues to loom over the operation and budgetary process for the County of Huron,” the resolution states.
The resolution notes various units of local government depend in part on the personal property tax to provide for transportation systems, sewage disposal, education, recreation and other public services, and to promote the public heath, safety and welfare.
The resolution notes there currently are applications for the amendment of the zoning ordinance to further wind turbine overlay districts for the further development and expansion of wind farms in Huron County. However, the resolution notes, “the development of the wind turbine farms already has created a burden on the citizens of Huron County, and with the proliferation of more wind farms, it is anticipated those burdens will continue to grown.”
The resolution outlines various portions of state law that allows local government to control the development of land through zoning ordinances and case law where Michigan courts have held an ordinance can reasonably regulate land use in a number of fashions.
“(In) light of the foregoing facts, a moratorium on any further action by this board would be reasonable use of its police powers until such time as the State of Michigan determines what action it is going to take on the various proposals to eliminate the personal property tax as a source of revenue for local government,” the resolution states.
During a recent town hall meeting in Caro, Gov. Rick Snyder said a plan to eliminate – at least part of – the state’s personal property tax could be developed within the next two to three months.
He didn’t go into much detail as to what plan could be unveiled. Rather, he said it’s a task that’s been charged to Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is leading a work group to develop a plan.
While Snyder called the personal property tax “the dumbest tax in the state,” he acknowledged it does raise quite a bit of revenue for local governments.
In regard to personal property tax being the only tax local units of government receive from wind developments, Snyder said, “We understand the issue and the good part is you have a good representative, Kurt Damrow, and Mike Green as your senator, and they’re doing a good job of making sure that those issues are brought up.”
In late May, Green introduced Senate Bill (SB) 391 that changes the classification of wind turbines from personal property to real property. That bill was assigned to the Senate Committee on Finance, and it remains in committee. While Damrow has publicly discussed plans he has for a new personal property tax for wind turbines, nothing has been formally introduced in bill form.