BAD AXE – There still could be some wind turbines in Section 13 of McKinley Township, as DTE Energy is making a second attempt at getting a wind energy overlay district in that area.
Last week, the Huron County Planning Commission set an Aug. 1 public hearing to get public input about DTE’s application for a wind district in the southern half of Section 13.
Matt Wagner, DTE Energy wind site development manager, said DTE didn’t include as much of Section 13 as it requested in a prior application. That previous application failed to garner approval by the Huron County Board of Commissioners last month. Wagner said DTE felt that if it had to submit another application, it wanted the second one to be different from the first.
He said DTE decided to submit another application because the utility wants to honor the commitment it made to the landowner, Phil Leipprandt, who has had easements with DTE Energy to develop his property in Section 13. Leipprandt has publicly expressed displeasure about the board of commissioners failing to approve the first application. He noted the application met all the requirements in the wind energy zoning ordinance, and he felt like he was being picked on because other property has been approved for wind energy development yet his was not.
Wagner said including the portion in Section 13 will improve DTE’s project overall. But the biggest reason DTE is submitting another application is to include Leipprandt in the project because he’s been a faithful landowner.
“Our landowners are important to us,” Wagner said.
The Huron County Board of Commissioners was split last month on this issue. Because the board had a tie vote, the resolution died. None of the three commissioners who voted against the resolution opted to bring the matter up for another vote during the next regular meeting that followed the one with the tie vote. Commissioner John Bodis, who was absent from the meeting that resulted in the tie vote, has said if he were given the ability to vote, he would have voted in favor of the wind district.
The commissioners who voted against the district – John Nugent, David Peruski and Ron Wruble – did so for a number of reasons, including that they wanted the county’s wind energy zoning ordinance revised before any new projects are approved. Some of the things they want to see addressed include setback distances from the shoreline and noise standards.
During Wednesday’s Huron County Planning Commission meeting, Wruble told the planning commission he was concerned because he’s heard a landowner say they intentionally asked wind developers to site turbines as close to their neighbor’s property as possible. He said he wants to see a map detailing where existing turbines sit and how close they are to a neighbor’s home, versus how close they are to the property owner’s home.
Another issue Wruble brought up was whether the county will consider limiting how many turbines can be erected in Huron County. He said that if efforts to increase Michigan Renewable Energy Standards to 20 percent by 2025 are successful, there will be wind mills from one end of the county to the other.
“That might be something to discuss in the future,” he said.
Wagner told the Tribune if the requested overlay is approved in Section 13, there could be one to two turbines sited in that area of the township.
Even if it’s not approved, there will be wind turbines built in McKinley Township. Projects already have been approved and are under construction. The Exelon Harvest Wind II project will have five turbines in McKinley Township, and DTE is constructing nine turbines there. It was only Section 13 of the township that has been debated.
Jeff Smith, Huron County Building and Zoning director, presented information during Wednesday’s planning commission meeting refuting some things that were said at prior public hearings. Where it was previously stated that the tax benefits are very low, roughly $1,000 per turbine over life of the turbine, Smith had information from the Huron County Treasurer’s Office showing the area has received more than $3.2 million in tax revenue from wind developments since 2008. That breaks down to more than roughly $41,400 per turbine over the past four years.
In regard to support for local wind farms, Smith noted voters in McKinley Township approved a ballot request for a wind energy overlay district 128-60 (68.19 percent-31.9 percent) in 2010.
Wruble noted that was in 2010. He indicated he believes that the results would be different if voters were asked the same question now that they were asked back then.
The planning commission set the public hearing over DTE’s new application for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1 in Huron County Circuit Courtroom on the second floor of the County Building.