ST. JOHNS A lawyer representing owners of a proposed $120 million Clinton County wind-energy project used a court hearing Friday to attack dozens of restrictive provisions in ordinances passed by three townships whose residents fear the effects of the project’s towering turbines.
Grand Rapids attorney Jon M. Bylsma, representing Chicago-based Forest Hill Energy-Fowler Farms LLC, argued the 27 provisions would illegally restrict development beyond the terms of the county’s zoning ordinance and the special-use permit county commissioners approved nine months ago.
“I’m not trying to be a pain when I say all of these (provisions) have to go,” Bylsma told Circuit Judge Randy Tahvonen. “Any part of this where they can say, ‘no,’ is a big deal … (and) is invalid.”
Lawyers for Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships countered, saying the additional restrictions are consistent with the county’s special-use permit and should be allowed to stand to protect the “health, safety and welfare” of township residents.
When the arguments concluded, Tahvonen said he wanted more time to read the legal briefs submitted by each side and would rule “in short order,” but not immediately.
In July, Tahvonen struck down the four main provisions of the ordinances that addressed turbine height, noise, property-line setbacks and shadow flicker from rotating blades.
Forest Hill, the Chicago-based developer, wants to erect 39 wind turbines, each reaching a height of 427 feet at the highest point of blade rotation.
Only 14 Michigan skyscrapers are taller. At 345 feet, the Boji Tower in downtown Lansing is the area’s tallest building. The state Capitol tops out at 267 feet.
The project was proposed in 2008, sparking a debate that pitted neighbor against neighbor ever since. Some residents consider the proposal an environmentally friendly form of economic development. Others have protested the potential effects of the turbines on their health, property values and quality of life.
When Tahvonen invalidated the key provisions of the township ordinances three months ago, he said the townships had abdicated their rights to zone land uses involving the project. Bylsma argued Friday that the abdication conclusion was legally sound and carried over to the “minutia” within other provisions, such as the townships’ specification of the exact size of warning signs to be placed near the turbines.
Attorneys for the townships have asked the state Court of Appeals for permission to pursue appeal of Tahvonen’s July decision while remainder of the case is pending.
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