ST. JOHNS – A 5-0 vote by the Bengal Township board to adopt a more restrictive wind-turbine ordinance than the one passed earlier this year by Clinton County has not stopped Forest Hill Energy, LLC from pursuing is proposal to create and 40-tower project in the county. Bengal joins Dallas and Essex townships in approving the more restrictive ordinances.
“We are moving forward with the Fowler Farms project,” said Timothy Brown, manager of Forest Hill Energy. “We are excited about developing a clean form of energy and the prospect of bringing new investment, jobs, and tax revenues to the community over the next 20 years.”
Brown did express his disappointment that the township seem to be working hard to prevent the project from continuing.
“We are disappointed that the townships have adopted their own ordinances which are clearly intended to exclude this project,” said Brown, “but we are continuing to pursue the special use permit through the Clinton County permitting process.”
The township board voted to adopt the tougher requirements during a special meeting held Nov. 29. The board turned down a nearly identical proposal two weeks earlier by a 3-2 vote.
About 150 people filled the township hall for the reconsideration of the ordinance by the board.
The ordinance restricts wind turbines to a height that developers say is not feasible for their 40-tower project. Compared to the county ordinance, the township version also increases the distance towers are required to be set back from neighbors’ property lines.
Although only about a dozen people spoke during the public-comment period, all but one endorsed the proposed ordinance. A show-of-hands among those attending the meeting showed near-unanimous support for board adoption of the ordinance.
Township Supervisor Eric Mohnke attributed the two-week delay in approving the ordinance to legal reviews and correction of typographical errors. Proponents said the restrictions would protect property values, residents’ health and safety and the area’s traditional rural lifestyle.
Forest Hill Energy’s application for a special use permit for the wind-turbine farm remains pending before the county’s planning and zoning commission.
“Right now they (Forest Hill Energy) are really focused on meeting the requirements for the special land-use permits required by the county,” said Naomi Burton, a spokesperson for Forest Hill Energy.
“The Clinton County wind ordinance is one of the most protective in Michigan, far more so than Gratiot County, Mason County, or Huron County,” said Brown. “When the special use permit is issued, we will address the township ordinances.”
The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. and the Forest Hill Energy special land-use permit is on the agenda.
Steve Reed contributed to this story.
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