BAD AXE – Noise from wind turbines.
It’s not only a focus of the county’s Wind Energy Zoning Committee, but a gripe heard from some of the eight residents who spoke at the committee’s meeting Wednesday.
With two new members, the committee, which handles revisions of the county’s wind turbine ordinance, met for the first time with all nine members before a regular planning commission meeting – and before nearly 20 residents in attendance.
Public comment dominated most of the conversation, and it was the largest attended county governmental meeting in months.
After electing a chair, vice chair and secretary, scheduling future meetings and deciding which areas of the ordinance to tackle, the comments poured in as resident made their own noise.
Sebewaing Township resident Charles Bumhoffer said there are two wind turbines located within a half-mile of his house, and that it would be a good idea for everyone in residential areas to have a site map of where turbines will be located.
Citing both a Huron Daily Tribune article, “Wind energy pushes county tax value higher” and a Detroit News article, “Ludington wind farm sparks legal, zoning fights,” Bumhoffer emphasized effects turbines may have on residential property values. He read an excerpt from the Detroit News article stating “homes are worth roughly 40 percent less due to turbines less than a half-mile away,” according to an attorney representing plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit in Scottville and Ludington, who don’t have turbines on their property but have complained of “sleeplessness, headaches, nausea, stress and fatigue” from exposure to wind turbines.
“I was there before the turbines came. Now, if I have to sell my house and have to take 40 percent less for it, who’s going to make me whole?” Bumhoffer said. “Is it going to be the wind turbine companies … Detroit Edison … am I supposed to take a physical loss because turbines were placed near my property?”
Bumhoffer said he took a walk around his property the night before and saw “55 wind turbines that were around me that were not there last year.”
“The two that are near me, I can hear noise and they’re ugly looking because they’re so big and monstrous,” he said.
Phil Talaski of Sigel Township questioned why there are recommendations that turbines be distanced three miles from shorelines.
“I’ve got a windmill three-quarters of a mile away and I can hear it on certain days,” Talaski said. “It seems a little discriminatory that I’ve got to put up with it. If I owned land three miles within the shore, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
Jeff Smith, building and zoning director for the county, said federal guidelines recommend a three-mile setback from shorelines and developers in Huron County have recommended the same, but the county ordinance does not require it.
“We can’t trump federal anyway, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) has the ultimate say on that,” he said.
Brookfield Township Clerk and resident Mike Lorencz suggested a buffer be in place between wind overlay districts – specific areas of agricultural land best suited for wind energy that are identified and created by the county board of commissioners – and a non-overlay district.
Lorencz said he hears noise from turbines across the road from his Sebewaing Road home, and that the section of land where he lives is not permitted to receive turbine noise.
“I am getting the same turbine noise that somebody would get that is in an overlay district,” he said.
Jeanne Williams of Lake Township said she has property right on the lake. To Williams, preservation and protection of the waterfront is important.
“Once these (wind turbines) are up, you’ve ruined it forever,” she said.
Lou Colletta, also of Lake Township, asked if any of the nine members had wind turbines on their property.
“One of the parks that’s projected, I have the potential of having a wind turbine within 1,300 feet of my home,” said Clark Brock, member and planning commission chair.
“I have seven within a half mile,” said Brion Dickens, member.
Matt Wagner, DTE Energy wind site development manager, then encouraged the committee to “try to hang on to objectivity” when reviewing the wind turbine ordinance and “let the data lead you rather than get into subjective standards.”
“Because that’s kind of a slippery slope,” Wagner said.
Sigel Township resident Charlotte Talaski asked what was meant when Wagner said “let the data lead them.”
“I’m just talking about the numbers in the ordinance be based on science, evaluations, investigations, fact-based compliance,” Wagner said.
Don Schuman, 86, has been a dairy farmer for 53 years.
“These farmers have signed the whole farm up for one windmill,” Schuman said. “I think we’ve made a big mistake. I don’t know. I hope I’m wrong, but they’ve got the right to put as many windmills on that farm as they want.”
The county needs more power for more energy, said Steve Vaughan, committee member and county commissioner.
“Why are we taking all of this good, prime farmland?” Schuman said.
Vaughan said Huron County has more land set aside than any other county in the state.
“We have plenty of prime farmland that’s not even being used at this time,” Vaughan said.
“Yeah, where is it?” Schuman asked.
The Wind Energy Zoning Committee’s next meetings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 21 and May 28, both at the county building, 250 E. Huron Ave.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding