June 13, 2012

County commissioners fail to approve McKinley wind district

By Kate Hessling, Assistant News Editor | Huron Daily Tribune | www.michigansthumb.com 13 June 2012

BAD AXE – A resolution to allow a wind energy overlay district, requested in Section 13 of McKinley Township by DTE Energy, was not approved by the Huron County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Of the six county commissioners present during Tuesday’s meeting, three voted in favor of the district and three voted against it. Because it was a split vote, the resolution was defeated.

Last week, following a lengthy public hearing, the Huron County Planning Commission voted to recommend the board of commissioners approve the district, which DTE officials previously said would include one to two wind turbines. DTE sought a wind energy overlay district in Section 13 because the utility has had easement agreements in that section for the past four or five years, DTE Program Manager Mike Serafin told Huron County Planning Commission members last week.

During Tuesday’s board of commissioners meeting, Commissioner Steve Vaughan reiterated statements he made last week, noting DTE has followed all the protocol necessary to get a wind overlay district, per the requirements in the county’s wind energy zoning ordinance. He said in voting to recommend the board of commissioners approve the district, the planning commission amended its boundaries to exclude a 120-acre parcel owned by Virgil Bouck, who requested to not be included in the district. The remaining parcels – roughly 70 percent of Section 13 – are owned by one landowner who wants to be part of a wind project, Vaughan said.

He, along with Commissioner John Horny and Board Chairman Clark Elftman, voted in favor of creating the district.

Commissioners David Peruski, Ron Wruble and John Nugent cast the dissenting votes.

Nugent was particularly concerned that the proposed district extends within three miles of the shoreline.

“For every argument in support of siting wind turbines, there is an equally compelling argument against,” Nugent said. “Ultimately, it comes down to what you personally believe (will be) the impact the turbines will have on Huron County. If approved, I believe the McKinley Overlay District will begin the process of destroying the quality of life for the residents along and near the shoreline, reduce residential property values, discourage tourism and damage migratory bird flyways.

Vaughan said the district is right on the border of being three miles from the shore. Serafin told planning commissioners last week that any turbines sited in Section 13 will not be sited closer than three miles to the shoreline.

Nugent, along with Peruski, felt the ordinance should be revised. Peruski felt the setback distances from non-participating parcels and noise standards are not adequate. Nugent favored having a provision prohibiting wind turbines in inappropriate locations, like near the shoreline.

He also was concerned that DTE is appealing taxes assessed on the utility’s wind development in Gratiot County.

“Because of Detroit Edison’s reluctance to pay their full taxes, I am of the opinion the ultimate goal of some of the wind developers is to avoid paying taxes altogether,” Nugent said.

A DTE spokesman told the Tribune last week that DTE did not advocate for the changes, but the utility must adhere to them because its electric rates are scrutinized by the Michigan Public Service Commission, and DTE must show prudent and responsible decisions when incurring any costs. That includes abiding by changes the State Tax Commission made last fall which resulted in the value of new wind turbines being considerably decreased.

Prior to the board’s vote Tuesday, Jim Quinn of Lake Township raised concerns about how bringing in a large number of wind turbines into the county will affect the county’s landscape. He also had concerns about how wind developments will be decommissioned once they no longer are in operation. He said wind proponents keep talking about all the money that will be brought into the area because of wind developments, however, there is uncertainty about future tax revenue from wind projects. There also have been lawsuits around the state and nation, including one in the Ubly area, where residents have had problems and settled with wind companies, Quinn said. Because of the above reasons, Quinn felt that by approving more wind developments, county officials would be allowing Trojan horses to move into the area.

He also was concerned about unequal treatment, where some individuals, such as paid attorneys and wind developers, are allowed to speak for longer than three minutes during public meetings. But the public – including one acoustic expert who has offered to give his expertise regarding the noise requirements in the county’s wind zoning ordinance – are cut off at three minutes.

“I don’t think that’s fair or just,” Quinn said.

Prior to reaching the end of the three minutes he was given to address county commissioners on Tuesday, Quinn said he wants to be on record for future reference as saying, “I told you so,” in regard to the negative consequences he feels will result if 1,500 wind turbines are allowed to be built in Huron County.

Quinn was the only member of the public to speak during Tuesday’s meeting. Another Lake Township resident, Cindy Jurek, submitted a letter to the board asking county commissioners to vote no against the wind district in Section 13 of McKinley Township.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/06/13/county-commissioners-fail-to-approve-mckinley-wind-district/