The one-year halt to wind energy development in Mason County will continue for a second year – unless the Mason County Board of Commissioners, during the year, rescinds the halt for 2014 it approved Tuesday night.
Tuesday’s vote was unanimous, although Commissioner Joseph Lenius voiced reservations about the county setting itself up for a lawsuit by zoning out wind turbines by the moratorium the board approved.
Lenius said he realizes the halt on wind energy for 2013 was necessary to give the Mason County Planning Commission time to study issues associated with wind turbines. Among those issues are flicker, sound, internet interference, avian and bat kills and enforcement of the county’s zoning ordinance.
He said he also is OK about extending it one more year because the planning commission was busy updating the county’s master plan in 2013 and did not have time to adequately study the wind issues.
But Lenius said he is concerned the board might be sued if it continues moratoriums year after year, which would effectively stop developers from starting projects in the county.
Commissioner Tom Posma said there is currently no company interested in launching a new wind farm and said the board could possibly rescind the moratorium if something came up.
“I think this is appropriate,” Commissioner Janet Andersen, who proposed the moratorium’s extension, said about it. “This gives (the planning commission) the time frame to do the job.”
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, three people used public comment time to urge the board to pass the extension.
“I think an extension of this resolution is needed,” Evelyn Bergaila said about the issue, adding that she believes there is misinformation about flicker from wind turbines and said there have been noise violations at the current Lake Winds Energy Park.
Alden Maleckas also spoke in support of the extension saying it will give the planning commission more time to study issues related to the wind turbines.
Maleckas also proposed that future wind energy developers be required to buy the properties of people who live in targeted sites but who do not want to live near the turbines.
Cary Shineldecker, who lives near wind turbines in the Lake Winds site, also supported the extension and said he and his wife put their house up for sale and sleep in the basement because of the noise, flicker and other effects of the nearby turbines.
Mason County Zoning Director Mary Reilly has said the planning commission has not yet completed its review of issues related to wind turbines and said new planning commissioners will start in January and said the extended halt to wind development will allow them more time to become acclimated to the issue before making decisions.
The board Tuesday approved buying a 1.5-acre strip of property along the south side of U.S. 10 near Gordon Road for $1,000 and closing costs.
The property belongs to Herbert “Bud” Hall and was too narrow for him to build on so he offered it to the county, which has adjacent land totaling about two to three acres, according to Mason County Administrator Fabian Knizacky.
“The board thought it would be a nice addition to the property we have and the price was reasonable,” Knizacky said about the decision.
The board took action Tuesday because Hall had asked for a decision before year’s end, Knizacky said.
There are currently no plans for that property, he said.
The board also approved accepting a $12,229 state grant to pay for a portion of the county’s cost of a State Sheriff’s Chief’s Enforcement of Narcotics Team officer.
Knizacky said the grant will pay about 13 percent of the SSCENT officer’s cost.
Also on Tuesday, the county board approved many appointments to county boards, committees, commissions and agencies.
Most of the seats were filled by the only applicants for the positions.
In the case of the Mason County Parks and Recreation Commission, four people applied for two seats so the board chose Steve Dvorak and Ed McCumber to fill the seats.
In another case, there were 14 seats open on the Mason County Solid Waste Management Planning Committee and only 10 applicants. They were approved and the board will consider other applicants.
Defense attorney funds
In other business Tuesday, the board approved increasing the amounts paid to defense attorneys at the county’s courts.
The board approved raising the amount for probate and juvenile courts from $44,377 to $45,043.
The board approved increasing the amount paid to defense attorneys for circuit court from $91,643 to $93,018.
The board also approved increasing the amount paid to defense attorneys for district court from $42,363 to $42,998.
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