The Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Renewable Energy filed response briefs to Mason County and Consumers Energy’s rebuttal briefs Wednesday. The briefs are the last legal documents requested by Mason County Circuit Court Judge Richard Cooper in the case. The timeline on when Cooper might rule is not known. CARRE is suing the Mason County Zoning Board of Appeals over what it says are improprieties in approving Consumers’ special land use permit for Lake Winds Energy Park wind turbines.
In responding to the county’s brief, CARRE attorney Karen Ferguson challenges the county’s assertion that wind turbines have a small footprint, noting that with the inclusion of a 400-meter “unsafe zone” found in a manual by wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, the actual footprint is closer to 71 acres, the combined footprint of the Meijer and Home Depot stores in Amber Township.
She states that wind turbines are not a farming use and the Lake Winds project is not a farm. She argues that turbines close to non-eased properties cause friction with other permitted uses.
The response also states the project is contrary to the comprehensive plan goals of minimizing conflict and encouraging farm practices that minimize noise and environmental risk.
“CARRE denies any careful analysis of comprehensive plan, competing goals or balancing was done by the planning commission,” the document states.
By ignoring the Vestas safety zone, which works out to 1,312 feet, CARRE says the comprehensive plan’s goal of limiting hazardous or disturbing uses was not met.
The response brief states that noise, flashing lights, flicker, a disruption of the natural character of the area, health issues and declining property values will result from the ZBA approving the planning commission’s approval of the permit.
“Within one mile of industrial turbines, CARRE member’s quiet enjoyment of their lives will be disturbed on a daily basis with whumping noise, flashing lights and medical impacts,” the brief states.
Both the response to the county and the response to Consumers refer to diagrams of specific turbines in close proximity to gas lines and where turbine parts could conceivably fall and damage those lines, according to professional engineers John Kreinbrink and Doug Busch. CARRE argues that Ken Prior of Omimex, owner of sour gas lines, did not agree to any setback distance, making several of the turbine sitings inherently unsafe.
In responding to Consumers, Ferguson argues the “rush to approve this project in order for consumers to obtain government money has led to many material errors that put the public’s health, safety and welfare at risk.”
She argues that Consumers was in such a hurry to get tall-structure and Federal Aviation Administration approval that it just plain forgot about the gas lines in its planning.
Ferguson also argues that Consumers is wrong in stating that Cooper can’t overturn the ZBA.
“The court has substantial authority granted under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to modify or reverse ZBA decisions or remand to the ZBA for further proceedings and/or material evidence.”
The court can also affirm, reverse or modify the decision, she states.
She asks that the court remand the issue back to the ZBA with instructions to send it back to the planning commission to take additional material evidence concerning gas lines and the Vestas “unsafe zone” into account.
She maintains that the installation of wind turbines with a 1,312 safety radius constitutes a condemnation of property and because Consumers is a shareholder-owned company and not a publicly held utility she questions that the county can order such condemnation.
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