BAD AXE – A move to expand the county’s Wind Energy Zoning Committee to include a member of DTE Energy was shot down by county commissioners earlier this week.
Mike Serafin, project manager at DTE, sought a spot on the committee, which is a subcommittee of the planning commission that handles issues related to sound, location and other factors affecting the county’s wind turbine ordinance.
A conflict of interest and non-residency status were deciding factors in a 4-2 vote disallowing Serafin a spot on the committee.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Serafin said. “I don’t feel that what they did was in the best interest of the residents in Huron County.”
Serafin, who is not a Huron County resident, told commissioners he approached Jeff Smith, the county’s building and zoning director, because he felt perspective from a developer was needed on the committee. Serafin said he’s had 44 years of power plant experience and seven years experience with wind energy.
According to Serafin, the board was looking at reviewing wind energy zoning but “didn’t want any active participation on the subcommittee by a wind developer.”
“Yet, they’ll allow one of the top anti-wind persons to sit on the board,” he said. “Obviously, I’d be pro-wind. That’s how I make my living. I think you want to have a balance on the board.”
Commissioner John Nugent recognized DTE as a good company, but was concerned that “once again, we’re going to have this shadow over the board of commissioners saying that you’re in the pocket of Detroit Edison.”
“Commissioners have been accused of being paid and everything else by the wind turbine people,” he said. “It’s a joke and it’s embarrassing to watch this unfold.”
Nugent reminded the board that they were talking about appointing a non-resident to a committee of Huron County.
“I have difficulty with that,” he said. “Not that Mike isn’t a good man, and that he couldn’t bring good expertise to this. His integrity is not in question.”
Current members on the Wind Energy Zoning Committee include County Commissioners John Bodis, David Peruski and Steve Vaughan; planning commissioner Carl Duda; and Robert McLean, who was denied a spot on the planning commission last week but instead appointed to the subcommittee by county commissioners.
“To bring Serafin on that committee would be ridiculous,” Nugent said.
Commissioner Steve Vaughan and Chairman Clark Elftman voted in favor of appointing Serafin to the position. Commissioner Jeremy Tietz was absent.
“I have referred to this committee as the anti-wind committee,” Elftman said. “It seems like we’re getting overloaded in that direction. I think we need somebody that has expertise in that field.”
Elftman said even the planning commission is lopsided, with seven members from one side of the county and two from the other.
“It’s not in balance and it should be,” he said. “As far as being somebody from outside the county, that’s going to happen. That should not hold us back to try and do what is best for the county.”
Commissioner Steve Vaughan said Serafin was chosen for his expertise, and asked where else the county would go to seek opinion and guidance on issues covered by the subcommittee.
“DTE has got the most skin in the game for Huron County,” he said. “We need to be able to get this information from a developer and be able to have their perspective in order to do this correctly.”
After the decision had been made, Nugent commented on the divide among wind energy viewpoints in the county.
“The county is pretty well divided firmly either for or against wind. It’s becoming more and more of a problem.”
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