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MANISTIQUE – A moratorium on any wind energy system development within the county is now in effect. An ordinance to impose the moratorium was approved during Tuesday’s meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.
A moratorium on the wind energy systems, primarily wind turbines, was first proposed to the county board in May. Commissioner Craig Reiter had suggested the board put into place a moratorium while they developed an appropriate amendment to the ordinance limiting turbine development.
Despite stating his case, Reiter’s suggestion was aggressively opposed by Commissioner Dan LaFoille and eventually voted down by the other commissioners. Then, in June, commissioners LaFoille, Reiter, and Al Grimm voted to adopt amendments to sections 102 and 508 of the Schoolcraft County Zoning Ordinance. Commissioners Jerry Zellar and Sue Cameron voted against adopting the ordinance, noting in its current form, it appeared to be “exclusionary” in nature.
The amended section 508 states developers looking to create a wind turbine grid, or wind farm, must meet 25 standards and comply with a decommissioning unused or abandoned wind energy systems plan and be subject to penalties if any stipulations are violated.
The ordinance surfaced shortly after news came to light that Heritage Sustainable Energy, out of Traverse City, had leased approximately 4,000 acres of land in the Cooks area, and had been in the planning phase of a wind farm.
Heritage, and a zoning expert from Michigan State University – both invited by commissioners to make presentations at meetings – also speculated that the county’s newly passed ordinance was exclusionary, meaning it left no viable option for any wind turbine to be erected within the county. This essentially equated to the county possibly excluding, through zoning regulations, one particular business from entering the area.
During Tuesday’s meeting, LaFoille stated that the amended wind ordinance had been sent to the county’s attorney at Foster, Swift, Collins, and Smith PC, located in Lansing, for review. Following this review, LaFoille said the attorney stated that there would be “some issues” with the amended documents, and that the planning commission should revisit them.
LaFoille stated that the county has nothing in writing from the attorney, and that communication had been limited to phone calls and emails with the county’s building inspector, Jake Rivard.
Reiter interjected, noting he had spoken with Rivard on the issue.
“He had said that there were several items that needed to be looked at to the point where it was hard to start,” he said.
As a result, the attorney provided documents to put into place a moratorium on any wind energy system construction for one year, or until “we have all the bugs worked out of our ordinance”, Reiter explained.
Included in the moratorium is the clause that states no permits, licenses and approvals for any property subject to or under the jurisdiction of the county’s zoning ordinance for the establishment and use of wind energy systems be issued for one year or until the amendment of the county’s zoning ordinance – whichever occurs first. It also states that the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act of 2006 grants the county the ability to adopt reasonable regulations to “control the establishment and use of wind energy systems” and that the county finds that adopting the moratorium is in the “best interest of the public health, safety, and welfare”.
The moratorium was unanimously approved by commissioners and takes effect immediately following its publication in a newspaper general circulation. Commissioners Jerry Zellar and Sue Cameron were absent.
Initially rebuked by many county commissioners, a moratorium on the licensing, permitting or approval of any wind energy system within the county was adopted by the board Tuesday.
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