Three Clinton County townships will request a rehearing with the Michigan Court of Appeals in their attempts to regulate a $120-million wind farm project.
The board of trustees of Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships all voted to request a rehearing during a joint board meeting held at the Bengal Township Hall on Thursday night.
The decision came after an hour-long closed session with Bill Fahey, the attorney for all three townships. During the session, Fahey went over the options with the board members before they made the decision to pursue a rehearing, which will come before the same three-judge panel that made the most recent decision against the townships.
“In the rehearing we will have an opportunity to raise points that the panel may have overlooked or that they need to give more attention to,” said Fahey. “From there they may change all or parts of the previous decision.”
Each township will pay $500 to have the rehearing.
Approximately 40 people were in attendance, some of whom thanked the board members for continuing the battle. However, others questioned how much more the townships were going to continue to spend on the case.
Bengal Township Trustee Marilyn Irrer acknowledged that the issue from the beginning has not been easy.
“I have been on the board for 30 years and I have never seen an issue split the community as this has,” said Irrer. “I can see both sides of the issue and that is my problem. I will vote to spend the money despite being advised by some members of the community not to.
“This is something that is hurting friendships.”
The special joint meeting was in response to a decision made Monday by a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals which upheld a lower court ruling that invalidated the restrictive ordinances the townships enacted in late 2012.
The panel agreed the project is governed by the county’s zoning ordinance, which commissioners passed in 2011 en route to project approval.
In that ruling, the panel stated that townships are permitted to adopt zoning ordinances, but the townships chose not to.
Instead, the townships created zoning restrictions and placed them in police-protective ordinances intended to safeguard public health, safety and welfare.
The wind farm project by Forest Hill Energy looks to place a total of 39 turbines in the three townships, each with a total height of 427 feet.
The Clinton County ordinance allows for a height of 450 feet. However, the ordinances passed by Dallas and Essex townships limited the height to 380 feet, while the Bengal Township ordinance set the maximum height at 400 feet.
At a previous meeting, an official with Forest Hill Energy stated that the turbines needed to be at least 426 feet tall in order to be profitable.
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