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Suit holds up wind energy site plan review

BAD AXE – Multiple issues related to wind energy blew together at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

Early in the meeting, Commissioner David Peruski, who chairs the Legislative Committee of the Huron County Board of Commissioners, made planners aware of a restraining order signed that afternoon by Huron County Circuit Court Judge M. Richard Knoblock, which prohibited the county from zoning Brookfield Township.

He proceeded to recommend that planners pull a site plan review for NextEra’s Pheasant Run Wind Park from their agenda, as Brookfield is one of the townships that would house the 88 turbines.

The planners voted unanimously to table the issue until after the hearing, which is scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

NextEra Project Director Kevin Gildea asked if there was any room for discussion, as the site plan review also included Fairhaven, Grant, Oliver, Sebewaing and Winsor townships.

“It would be very difficult for us to have discussion about the project and application as pieces,” Chairman Clark Brock replied. “We generally do it as a whole. Your book is a whole project. … It would be difficult for us not to deal with the one township that has a restraining order, and deal with the other pieces of it.”

Pheasant Run Project Manager Ryan Pumford told the Tribune that the project could still be on schedule for phase one to begin in July if Judge Knoblock rescinds the restraining order.

Pumford said it was “unfortunate” that NextEra wasn’t allowed to give its presentation, but understandable considering the recommendation the planning commission got from the board of commissioner’s legislative committee.

NextEra officials were not looking for the review to be approved Wednesday night, but wanted to go over the document with planners in hopes of getting an approval at their June 5 meeting.

That is still a possibility, as Chairman Clark Brock said the commission would look over the document if Knoblock saw the restraining order as unfit, and may even hold a special meeting before its regular one on June 5.

And if Knoblock upholds the restraining order?

Pumford wasn’t sure what direction the company would go in.

“There are really too many options to try and list them all out,” Pumford said.