BAD AXE – Wind energy issues are blowing over – for now.
The Huron County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 Tuesday to halt all new wind energy plans.
The decision came in the form of a letter written by Commissioner Ron Wruble to the Huron County Planning Commission.
“With the instability, uncertainty and lack of direction related to the issues pertaining to wind energy throughout the State, the Huron County Board of Commissioners will not schedule any additional wind turbine action on the Board’s agenda until there is resolution to these issues,” the letter stated.
The decision will not affect any ongoing wind turbine projects.
The board’s concern about wind turbines can be traced to the fall of 2011 when the state tax commission lowered the taxable value of wind turbines. Wind turbines went from a 100 percent assessment in year one, with a scheduled depreciation to 30 percent value in 15 years, to an 80 percent initial assessment, with a depreciation to 30 percent value in six years.
In September, Huron joined several other wind turbine-heavy counties in forming the Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative to share legal costs related to tax value determinations.
Talks with the state tax commission have not lead to a resolution, and no favorable legislation has been enacted.
Huron County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith said there are not currently any wind overlay districts to go before the board, but he thinks there were companies in the area who are exploring the idea.
“There are obviously developers around that would be affected by that statement,” Smith said. “… Any developer that wants to come develop an overlay district at this point would have trouble doing that based on what this is saying.”
Smith said the planning commission will continue to act in the same capacity, but developers who get wind of the board’s stand would be less likely to start the process of creating a wind farm.
Commissioners Steve Vaughan and John Horny were the dissenting votes.
Vaughan asked whether county attorney Stephen Allen had been consulted, and questioned whether the county might be opening itself to litigation.
Wruble said that Allen helped craft the letter, and that there should not be any legal issues, as the decision would not affect any current developments.
Horny said that the commissioners were overstepping their bounds.
“They have people on that board who are definitely qualified to make zoning decisions for this county,” Horny said. “There is not one of us on this board who has the knowledge, (or) ability. … We can concur with them and we can guide them, but we should not be micromanaging the board of this county.”
“How is this micromanaging anything?” Wruble replied. “It’s not directing them to do anything. It’s not telling them to do anything. … How can this board make decisions based on facts, when we have no clue what they are?”
Horny said that he thought it might be beneficial to have a county vote on the issue.
Wruble agreed, but said that the board couldn’t afford to allow more wind turbine projects while waiting for a potential vote.
He said it was important for residents to understand the facts of the current situation with wind turbines, versus what was initially pitched to the county.
“Put the new facts in,” Horny replied.
“We don’t have them yet,” Wruble said. “It’s in flux because we want to wait to see what the facts are.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding