BAD AXE – Planning commissioners are ready to move forward with a Rapson milling company’s large expansion, and a subcommittee is ready to tackle revisions of the county’s wind ordinance as the number of turbines in the county increase.
A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the county building, 250 E. Huron Ave., for Star of the West’s $4 million proposed expansion, which calls to add four, 80-foot-tall, 48-foot-wide grain storage tanks and re-route one of the county’s oldest roads.
“It’s a big investment to the community,” said Jeff Smith, building and zoning director for the county. “Our main concern at this point is to get the zoning figured out and then start talking building parameters.”
But beforehand, at 6 p.m., new members of the Wind Energy Zoning Committee will take the stage.
The subcommittee handles the tall task of revising the county’s wind turbine ordinance in regard to noise regulations, shadow flicker, decibel limits and turbine setback requirements and other areas.
It’s the subcommittee’s first meeting since county commissioners denied a spot on the board for an out-of-county resident and program manager at DTE – Mike Serafin; approved a wind proponent who owns a company that designs wind, solar and biomass systems – Pigeon resident Brion Dickens; and approved a Paris Township resident knowledgeable in acoustics who has sided against wind developments in the past – Robert McLean.
Smith said there were 160 turbines in the county at the end of 2012. Today there are 318 wind turbines spread across eight wind parks. An additional 10 are planned for construction this spring at the Big Turtle Wind Farm in Rubicon Township.
That number is set to increase with future projects.
There is talk of Geronimo Energy’s Apple Blossom Wind Project in Winsor and McKinley townships, which is aiming for a site map submission in June or July, Smith said. According to the developer’s website, it is a $200 million investment and may contain between 43 and 62 turbines with an operational capacity of 100 megawatts. Construction is slated for next year.
DTE officials are planning a project in Meade and Colfax townships, and there is one other area approved for wind energy that Smith said is not currently developed that spans Dwight, Lincoln and Bloomfield townships. RES America’s Deerfield Energy Overlay Distrct was approved for the site in October 2011.
The board of commissioners’ decisions to deny and appoint members to the Wind Energy Zoning Committee recently has received criticism.
Smith said anyone who has the scientific background and proper training would be a good asset.
“It’s a good thing that there is a multitude of people involved; the process is not easy,” Smith said, adding that Dickens can provide the commission with engineering detail.
Along with Smith, eight other members comprise the Wind Energy Zoning Committee. They are county commissioners John Bodis, Steve Vaughan and David Peruski; Planning Commission Chairman Clark Brock and member Carl Duda; Steve Allen, the county’s corporate counsel; and residents McLean and Dickens. The subcommittee met for the first time in February.
Smith said there is enough input from all different directions, but that he’d still like to seek an acoustical consultant outside the county; “an engineer that has not had a project with any of the developers.”
“Noise is one of the major points of the ordinance that’s been under contention,” he said. “We want to have all the information – pro and con. We want to have the impacts of what is and what can be. You’ve got to look at both sides of it. I would look more at the data than who provided it, and the basis of how it was maintained.”
Two other public hearings also are on tap Wednesday. One is for the drafted civil infraction process for those in violation of building codes, the county zoning ordinance and the newly drafted airport zoning ordinance, and another is for individuals requesting a change in land zoning from residential to agricultural.
Planning commission meetings are held at the board of commissioner’s office on the third floor of the county building, room 305.