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Clinton County townships creating new wind farm rules  

Credit:  Written by Sue Lounds | Oct 25, 2012 | www.lansingstatejournal.com ~~

ST. JOHNS – The company has asked the county’s planning commission to approve a special use permit for its project – called Fowler Farms – to erect a total of 40 wind turbines in Dallas, Essex and Bengal townships.

When completed, the company says the wind farm will generate about $8 million in tax money over 20 years for local municipalities and school districts. It hopes to begin construction in late 2013 and begin operation in 2014.

The county’s planning commission is evaluating the project under one set of standards, but the townships have enacted more more stringent rules. There is a debate over which ordinance will take precedence.

The Dallas and Essex township boards have approved what they calls a police protection ordinance with higher limits on setbacks, height and sound compared to the county. Bengal Township is considering it.

“Our township ordinance is trying to look out for the rights of the participating property owners and then also for the folks who are adjacent property owners who are impacted by the wind turbines and wanted some more stringent rules regarding setback, noise, shadow flicker and things like that,” said Rex Ferguson, Essex Township trustee.

Concerned about the visual and sound impact of 450-foot tall wind turbines, people have turned out in large numbers to register their opposition at recent township meetings.

“We are happy to have the Police Protection Order adopted,” said Lynn Ferguson, Essex Twp. supervisor.

“I believe this is going to be a work in progress for the next few months. We hope, although I haven’t talked to Dallas (Township) yet, we hope to partner with them in coming up with an answer to this question (of how the ordinance will be enforced).”

“Our township ordinance is trying to look out for the rights of the participating property owners and then also for the folks who are adjacent property owners who are impacted by the wind turbines and wanted some more stringent rules regarding setback, noise, shadow flicker and things like that,” said Rex Ferguson, Essex Township trustee.

The move by the townships appears put them on a legal collision course with the county.

“We (the county) are done setting standards. This is a lawful activity,” said Clinton County administrator Ryan Wood. “The investors’ and the landowners’ applications will be reviewed in a very deliberate way.”

Wood said the county zoning commission is studying the proposal, and if it determines the proposal meets all of the county’s requirements, the proposal will be approved.

“The county is doing its due diligence, and a decision will be made,” said Wood.

“The project is green and it’s what the state and federal governments want,” said Bob Boettger, a landowner who has agreed to host wind turbines. “Wind energy is a resource right along with coal and oil,” he said.

Boettger said he believes the county has done a great job establishing requirements and restrictions for wind turbines in Clinton County.

“Planning and zoning have done an exceptional job,” he said. “They have spent three years on this and they have built an ordinance that is stringent and at the same time fair and workable.”

But not everyone agrees with Boettger.

“I’m so thankful we live in Essex Township and our board passed the ordinance,” said Carla Wardin, property owner and resident of the township. “I think it’s a great compromise. The land owners who want turbines can still have them, but the ordinance makes them more tolerable to their neighbors. … Short of the county dismissing Forest Hill Energy’s application all together, this is the best we could hope for.”

Forest Hill Energy is critical of the patchwork approach.

“The Clinton County ordinance was developed through a careful and deliberate process. It has stricter set back and noise requirements than other projects in Michigan, particularly in Gratiot County where new turbines are being built, providing jobs and tax revenue, and have been embraced by the community,” said Tim Brown, manager Forest Hill Energy.

Source:  Written by Sue Lounds | Oct 25, 2012 | www.lansingstatejournal.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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