August 28, 2013

Clinton County wind farm ruling doesn’t close case; Lawyers say 15 issues unresolved

Written by Steven R. Reed | Lansing State Journal | August 27, 2013 |

ST. JOHNS – A Clinton County judge is trying to address confusion among lawyers about his ruling last month over a $120 million wind farm project.

Clinton County Circuit Judge Randy Tahvonen reiterated Monday he had stricken height, noise, setback and shadow flicker restrictions in his July 30 ruling on the project from ordinances adopted by three townships that want to mitigate the impacts of the project on their rural constituents.

But other aspects were not resolved.

“This order … does not close this case,” Tahvonen said.

For Grand Rapids lawyer Jon Bylsma, representing the project proposed by Chicago-based Forest Hill Energy, “there’s still not resolution” regarding the effects of “15 other parts of those ordinances that we would view to be zoning.”

The project calls for 39 turbines, each of which would be 427 feet tall at the highest point in the rotation of turbine blades. Tahvonen ruled in July that zoning is controlled by the county, not by the townships. The project meets county regulations.

“If there’s a way to address those (15 other points) and move forward with this project in a way that has people stop spending money on lawyers, then we’re all for that,” said Bylsma.

If agreement cannot be reached with the townships, Bylsma said he would file a motion seeking to invalidate the remaining provisions of the ordinances.

“If allowed to stand, this ruling will not only throw out the three township ordinances but will change the relationship of counties and townships throughout Michigan,” said Ken Wieber, a farmer and senior policy adviser to Clinton County Wind Watch, which is encouraging Essex, Bengal and Dallas township boards to appeal Tahvonen’s July ruling.

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