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Clinton County wind project advances; Planning commissioners recommend county board approval

A special-use-permit for a $123 million wind-turbine project advanced on a 4-1 vote by members of the Clinton County Planning Commission.

Approval or denial of the permit request could take place as soon as the Jan. 29 meeting of the seven-member Board of Commissioners.

Chicago-based Forest Hill Energy-Fowler Farms LLC proposes erecting 40 towers, each 427 feet tall, on lands leased across Dallas, Essex and Bengal townships. Each of those townships has passed local ordinances that are more restrictive than the county’s, setting up a possible legal battle if the county board OK’s the permit.

On Thursday night, Planning Commissioners Shannon Schlegel, Mark Simon, Bob Kudwa and Earl Barks voted in favor of recommending permit approval. Adam Stacey voted against a favorable recommendation.

“A case can be made that Forest Hill has complied with our strengthened, revised ordinance concerning the siting of wind turbines,” Stacey said Friday.

“Throughout this entire process, I have been seeking clarity,” he said. “Taking into consideration the entire vetting process for this application with the exchange of data between various consultants and the analysis of the data by outside consultants hired by members of the public, I have not found that clarity.”

He said conflicting analysis of data centered on the issue of noise. Stacey is the only member of the planning group who also serves as a county commissioner. He said plans to vote against recommendation of the permit again on Jan. 29.

Tim Brown, managing partner of the wind-energy company, said he was pleased by the Planning Commission vote, which he considered affirmation the project meets the requirements of the county’s ordinance.

“The next step is the Board of Commissioners,” he said Friday. “We look forward to their decision as well.”

Township ordinances are not identical but each requires towers to be shorter than the structures planned by Forest Hill. The ordinances also restrict noise and require greater setbacks from property lines.