BAD AXE – Potential impacts of disallowing wind energy development are mounting for township officials and developers.
Brad Lila, development manager at RES Americas, headquartered in Colorado, said a project the developer has been working on for six years would bring 75 wind turbines to northeastern Huron County.
A six-month halt on wind development countywide would jeopardize the project, Lila told county commissioners Tuesday.
“We’re hoping to start construction as soon as possible,” Lila said.
County Commissioner John Nugent said he is pursuing a six-month moratorium so that a committee can update and revise an “outdated” and “deficient” wind energy ordinance that he says puts residents’ health, safety and welfare at risk if more turbines are erected.
Lila said RES Americas has spent about $3 million on its Deerfield Wind Farm project so far, the second it has undertaken in the county. Areas in Huron, Dwight, Bloomfield and Lincoln townships were deemed suitable for development in 2011.
The moratorium, if approved by county commissioners, would apply to 16 townships under county zoning – that includes Dwight, Bloomfield and Lincoln.
“It really could affect the timeline, and that’s why I’m here today,” Lila said.
He did not have figures for expected number of jobs the project could bring to the area, its total cost or tax revenues.
“I’m waiting for the county,” he said.
RES Americas has not submitted a site plan or power purchase agreement to the county, a necessary step before obtaining building permits.
The project covers 460 parcels of land – about 20,000 acres – in the townships and has 220 landowners participating. Lila says every landowner within 2,100 feet of a turbine will receive payments, even those with or without turbines.
Lila said the developer has “gone above and beyond any of the county standards that are in place” – specifically by placing turbines no closer than 1,640 feet from occupied dwellings (the county ordinance states no less than 1,000 feet), and every access road and turbine on a property line.
“We have a three-mile setback from Lake Huron, despite the fact that that’s not required of us,” Lila said. “We heard loud and clear that that’s what you want, that’s what (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Service wants, so that’s what we did.”
Support has been strong and the project has been “very well-received” within the four townships, he said.
In Dwight Township, where the majority of land is leased for the project, Supervisor Ron Jaroch is part of that support.
“I am for wind development and I ask the board not to pass the moratorium and let RES do the right thing,” Jaroch said to commissioners Tuesday.
Lila requested the board to allow the project to continue if the county imposes a moratorium.
“My point that I’m trying to make here is that we have surpassed and exceeded every single zoning standard that you have put in front of us for the last six years,” Lila said. “I don’t know what more we could have done. … I’m hoping that you do the right thing.”
Nugent said RES Americas is a responsible developer, and that if a moratorium was in place and a new wind ordinance developed, “I’m sure that your company would probably already meet the standards.”
The board voted 6-1 to pay up to $1,000 to Foster Swift, a Grand Rapids law firm, to draft paperwork for a moratorium on wind energy in Huron County.
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