CROSS VILLAGE – The howling debate about how loud wind turbines should be in Emmet County will resume Thursday night.
The Emmet County Planning Commission will discuss the recent findings of a commissioned acoustic review on whether the 35-decibel sound limit on wind energy systems would be viable under a legal challenge.
Emmet County’s contracted engineering firm AECOM recommended in its report the county increase its sound ordinance level to 40 decibels for ambient noise, similar to an amendment the county considered in 2012.
Planning commission members are expected to discuss those findings Thursday, but a recommendation from the Emmet County Planning and Zoning Department and legal counsel is not expected until June.
“I’m still waiting for some answers back from the engineers who wrote the report,” said Tammy Doernenburg, Emmet County planning and zoning director.
Even without a recommendation, the earliest planning commission members could vote to make changes to the ordinance would be in June without a special meeting, because it requires 15 days to post a notice and text amendment before a vote can take place.
Doernenburg said it would be premature to say whether her recommendation would mirror the AECOM report.
“I think there will be changes, but I don’t fully know what those will be at this time,” Doernenburg said.
Increasing the wind energy sound levels has gotten mixed response from residents in Emmet County – especially in the northern Bliss, Carp Lake and Cross Village townships where developers have been leasing land with hopes to develop in the future.
A $150 million wind farm planned for those townships by Balance 4 Earth, LLC, called “Bliss Plateau Wind Farm” has been stalled because of the restrictive 35 decibel sound level.
Residents opposed to the utility-scale wind farm believe raising decibel level will mean the project will restart.
But, the report strongly suggests Emmet County’s current ordinance may not be defensible in court.
“With the current state of the science on this topic it may be difficult to justify a noise requirement which is less than 40 (decibels ambient),” states Kurt Schindler, Michigan State University Extension Land Use Educator, in another report titled “The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines” from 2010. The report is used as a supporting document by AECOM for its own conclusion.
The Emmet County Planning Commission will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2, in the Emmet County Courthouse, Board of Commissioners Meeting Room at 200 Division St. in downtown Petoskey.
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