LAKE TOWNSHIP – Planners in Lake Township have raised the restrictive bar in drafting a wind energy zoning ordinance.
After a public hearing at the township hall on Wednesday, the planning commission agreed to send a draft to county planners and Lake Township board for review.
The draft sets stricter setbacks for wind turbines from residences, and from Lake Huron, Rush Lake and game areas; reduces maximum sound levels; provides broader protection for wildlife and endangered species; defines specific height requirements; addresses shadow flicker; establishes a complaint procedure; specifies site placement requirements; and sets requirements for security bonding and decommissioning.
Key parts of the draft, as outlined by planners, include:
• Wind turbine setbacks of two times the total height from a participating residence, and four times the total height or 1,700 feet, whichever is greater, from any property line of a non-participating parcel.
• Setbacks from Lake Huron, Rush Lake and game areas: A wind energy system or wind energy generation facilities “shall be three (3) miles” from the shoreline and Rush Lake state game area and “adjacent wetlands or other ecological and environmentally sensitive areas.” Planners say the setback aligns with recommendations set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
• Turbines shall not be allowed to cast a shadow upon an adjacent or nearby non-participating parcel’s principal structure in excess of 30 hours measured on a continuous 365-day basis.
• Decibel limits reduced from 50 dBA to 40 dBA on participating parcels, and from 45 dBA to 35 dBA on non-participating parcels.
• An analysis conducted by a “third party qualified professional, approved by the township,” and provided to the township, to “identify and assess any potential impacts on wildlife and endangered species.” A post-construction wildlife mortality study shall be conducted annually.
• Site placement requires a special use permit. “Wind energy systems” or “meteorological towers” are permitted only in the agricultural district.
Planners say safety is the foundation of the entire ordinance, and that it is more restrictive given setbacks from the shoreline.
Residents say the township covers a small area with “unique” features.
“We’re smaller than most; we’ve got a lot of lake shoreline, we’ve got Rush Lake and Sleeper State Park,” said Bill Williams. “This is our township, not the developers. Huron County doesn’t need turbines in every township. Huron County has become one large industrial wind factory.”
Other residents spoke in favor of increased wind turbine regulation, inquired of a timeframe for decommissioning turbines, cited health concerns and voiced other concerns in relation to wind energy development.
Of the decision to establish a setback of four times the total height of a turbine or 1,700 feet, whichever is greater, from any property line of a non-participating parcel, Planning Commission Chairman Gerald Pobanz said, “it’s a concession we gave in to.” The proposed requirement, however, is still stricter than the county’s 1,320-feet limit.
After hearing public comment and consulting with Township Supervisor Valerie McCallum, Pobanz made a motion to send the ordinance to county planners and the township board for review.
The township’s previous ordinance was adopted but did not go into effect, because a petition was filed in early July 2011 by resident Clay Kelterborn, who wanted to put the ordinance up for a vote of the people. In 2012, a referendum asking residents to approve the adoption of the township’s wind energy zoning ordinance was voted down 207-128. At the time, 46 percent of the 725 registered voters in Lake Township cast their votes on the matter.
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