BAD AXE – Talks of a moratorium on wind energy are back on the table, as one county commissioner says wind projects should be halted until the county’s ordinance is updated.
“A moratorium is in order at this point until that (wind) ordinance can be revised,” County Commissioner John Nugent said at Tuesday’s board of commissioners meeting. “I hope to bring a resolution to that effect to this board.”
The ordinance, which stipulates many logistics in siting wind turbines, was last updated more than four years ago. Nugent continues to advocate for wind turbines not being sited within three miles of the shoreline – something the ordinance is mum on.
“They need to respect some certain ethical standard to stay back away from that lake,” Nugent said.
Nugent’s notion comes at a time when county planners have already given the go-ahead to Geronimo Energy, a Minnesota-based developer with plans to site 20 of 50 turbines within two to three miles of the Saginaw Bay shoreline, in Winsor and McKinley townships – a decision that hasn’t sat well with Nugent.
However, in 2011, county commissioners opened the door for Geronimo in approving its overlay district, which deems areas suitable for wind development, in a 5-2 vote. Nugent voted in favor. On Tuesday, he said that decision was based on the ordinance as it was approved in 2010, and that the ordinance is incomplete and needs revision.
Planners say they are currently working to revise regulation of sound and noise from turbines, among other areas of the ordinance.
Commissioner David Peruski said moratoriums usually start at the planning commission level, and that the board could bring a moratorium to planners for consideration.
Commissioner Steve Vaughan said there is no need for a moratorium – especially if it refers to what he interprets the word to mean.
“It is a restriction of the liberties of the citizens in your district,” Vaughan said.
He said he realizes setbacks are important for the birds and residents along the shoreline, but has a problem telling farmers in his district – Chandler, Colfax, Meade and Oliver townships – what they can and can’t do with their land.
“I’ve got more turbines in my district than there are anywhere in the state of Michigan,” Vaughan said. “We don’t get complaints. There are no complaints.”
“I get complaints all the time,” he said.
“And you don’t even have a turbine in your district,” Vaughan said.
“I don’t need them. They still complain about them to me,” Nugent said. “I think 1 percent or less of the population of Huron County benefits from these and 99 percent have to deal with them.”
County commissioners discussed moratoriums on future wind districts at several meetings in 2011, when issues had arisen with the personal property tax.
Putting a hold on developments also has been pursued locally.
Officials in Meade Township recently considered a six-month moratorium, in light of DTE Energy’s plans for a 50-turbine project in Meade and Colfax townships. It was defeated in a 4-2 vote. The board approved DTE’s overlay district, only to be challenged by a forthcoming referendum by one resident who says she’s gathered more than 120 signatures from residents to put the decision up for a vote.
Lake Township adopted a one-year moratorium on wind energy development in March 2008, so the planning commission would have time to study issues dealing with siting, noise effects, health concerns, possible property value decreases and other problems the board fears could arise if not properly addressed in a township ordinance the planning commission had been creating.
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