Zoning Board of Appeals decision: Upholds planning commission’s order for Consumers to mitigate noise at Lake Winds Energy Park
By a vote of two to one, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) Wednesday night affirmed the planning commission’s mitigation order for Consumers Energy’s Lake Winds Energy Park.
Board members Ed Iteen and Jerry Jensen voted yes. Kent Collins voted no.
Previously, the planning commission had set a maximum noise level at 45 decibels at the property line of unpooled parcels. HGC Engineering, hired by the county to do a required sound study this past spring, had found sounds over that limit.
The commission then ordered Consumers Energy to mitigate the noise problem.
Mary Reilly, Mason County zoning director, said Consumers Energy will now have to follow through with the mitigation or appeal to circuit court.
She also said if Consumers mitigates, there would be additional testing to confirm that that mitigation is meeting the targets it needs to.
During public comment, many affected residents expressed their disapproval of problems they say the wind turbines are causing.
“Back before the turbines were even here you said you would act in what was the best thing. Our good neighbor isn’t such a good neighbor anymore,” said Jeannie Parsons of Riverton Township.
Before the ZBA made its decision, resident Evelyn Bergaila reiterated her position from prior meetings. “The planning commission’s determination was based on a third-party engineer with no vested interest—not hired by Consumers Energy or the community. There is evidence of noncompliance and the county’s planning commission made a reasonable determination.”
See LAKE WINDS, A7
The sound study conducted by the county’s consultant, HGC Engineering, in its original report concluded the 56-turbine wind farm did not systemically violate the noise controls in the ordinance. However, HGC also said at times certain turbines did exceed the limit and that the planning commission would have to rule on whether any exceedance at all was allowed.
The consultant said whether the noise created by the turbines violates the county’s ordinance came down to how the ordinance is interpreted. Its spokesman said if the county determines any exceedance of the 45 dBA maximum at non-pooled parcels constitutes a violation, then there were violations.
The Planning Commission ruled earlier this fall, that the ordinance did not allow for any exceedance and issued the order for Consumers to mitigate should at several turbines found to be in violation.
Consumers Energy appealed that decision saying it wasn’t provided proper due process because it wasn’t aware the commission would make a decision on the night it did.
It also claims the HGC study did not properly isolate sound from the turbines, as required, and thus is an improper study.
“The HGC study was not completed in accordance to what the ordinance required,” Dennis Marvin of Consumers Energy said earlier.
It brought in its own consultant whose sound study said the park met the standards.
Recently, HGC stated that the park was designed to operate right at the legal limit and did not allow any room for margin of error in the design so it is not surprising that there is some exceedance.
Wednesday night, Adam Smith, Consumers lawyer, again argued the company wasn’t given proper due process.
Steve Begnoche, managing editor, contributed to this story.
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