HURON COUNTY – With the help of a Grand Rapids law firm, County Commissioner John Nugent expects to move forward with a county-wide moratorium on wind energy.
The county board of commissioners, on Tuesday, is expected to vote on a motion to retain Mike Homier of the law firm Foster Swift to “prepare wind moratorium documents at a cost not to exceed $1,000.”
“It had to be done,” Nugent said.
Nugent is pursuing a six-month halt on wind projects so that a committee of the county’s planning commission can fully revise and update Huron County’s wind energy ordinance.
The county’s wind energy zoning committee, with members appointed in January, March and April, continues to revise sound and noise regulations of the ordinance, and have discussed setbacks, heights and other areas.
Nugent also is concerned that residents’ health, safety and welfare are at risk if developments continue. But his intentions aren’t to curb wind development completely, he said.
“The whole premise of this isn’t to stop people from having wind energy,” Nugent said. “The idea is to have a breathing period for the subcommittee to finish ordinance recommendations. We don’t want anything to go forward with an ordinance that is defective. It has nothing to do with stopping wind. It’s not to stop anything.”
Nugent said there’s no way to verify whether residents’ health, safety and welfare is affected directly by wind turbines, and that he can only go off of complaints he gets “all the time” from people. He previously said he doesn’t want a moratorium to harm responsible wind developers.
If approved by county commissioners, the moratorium would apply to 16, or more than half, of the townships that are county-zoned. It would not necessarily apply to self-zoned townships.
“My hope is that (the committee) will reach a point that they identify what it is not protected in the ordinance,” Nugent said. “At that point, they need to have a legal firm draft the ordinance. They wouldn’t have to spend months and months on it.”
Nugent said Homier has written numerous moratorium documents.
Though he is unsure exactly what Homier will prepare, he said he suspects it would be a resolution – something Steve Allen, the board’s corporate counsel, can “review and research.”
“For less than $1,000, to have a basis for what we have to consider, it’s money well spent,” Nugent said. “There are too many developers and turbines coming in to not protect our residents with an ordinance while allowing the property owners to develop their property responsibly.”
In August, Meade Township voted down a six-month moratorium on wind energy development. Lake Township, in 2008, adopted a one-year moratorium. Huron County commissioners voted down one resolution to impose a moratorium in 2011, and pushed back discussion of another.
“If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t do it,” Nugent said.
In the Upper Peninsula’s Schoolcraft County, commissioners approved a moratorium in November that would prevent the issuing of permits, licenses and approvals for wind energy development for up to one year or “until the county’s ordinance on wind energy is revised,” according to a Dec. 11 article published by the Escanaba Daily Press.
Schoolcraft County also worked with the legal firm Foster Swift to revise the ordinance, and a representative of the firm advised the board to place a moratorium on wind development, according to the article.