HURON COUNTY – The possibility the county will halt wind development until the zoning ordinance is revised took a step toward fruition as commissioners hires an attorney to draft moratorium documents.
Commissioners voted 6-1 Dec. 30 to hire Mike Homier, of the Foster Swift law firm, at a cost not to exceed $1,000. Commissioner Steve Vaughan cast the dissenting vote.
Commissioner John Nugent, who pro- posed the resolution, said the money will be well spent to help the county protect the health and safety of residents.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Brad Lila, development director for RES Americas, asked commissioners to consider grandfathering his company’s project if the county decides to enact the proposed moratorium.
Lila said RES intends to break ground as soon as possible, and a six-month moratorium could threaten the project.
Lila said the company has spent approximately $3 million planning Deerfield Wind Farm, which will be located in Huron, Dwight, Bloomfield and Lincoln townships. The project comprises approximately 460 parcels encompassing roughly 20,000 acres and includes the participation of about 220 landowners.
He said the project was designed based on ordinance standards that were set in place when it received its overlay district zoning approval on the project.
“We’ve been designing on those standards due to the fact that twice, corporation council (Steve Allen) had advised the board here during the public hearing that the standards that would be in place would be those standards that were set forth at the time of overlay approval,” he said.
Lila said RES Americas has gone “above and beyond” the county’s requirements, including increasing the turbine setback from occupied dwellings from the county ordinance’s standard of 1,000 feet to 1,640 feet. Additionally, RES’s plans include a three-mile setback from Lake Huron, a standard that is recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but is not required by the ordinance.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that that’s what you want and that’s what Fish and Wildlife Service wants, so that’s what we did,” he said.
RES also worked to site turbines and access roads on property lines to minimize any negative effects on landowners.
“We heard loud and clear from the county that is a design that you want. Despite the fact that it really does hurt our bottom dollar, we complied with that, even though it’s not in your zoning standards,” Lila said.
He added the company ensures that all landowners impacted by the project receive financial compensation.
“We’ve heard complaints that very few people benefit from wind projects. That’s simply not the case. Every single landowner within 2,100 feet of a turbine, plus many more, are going to receive payments from this project. You have 220 landowners who are going to be compensated, with or without turbines,” he said.
Most importantly, he said, the community supports the project.
“Everybody is very engaged, and we’ve heard nothing but positive comments. It’s very well received within the four townships that we’re in ,” Lila said.
Nugent acknowledged that RES is a responsible company that has worked to protect residents and the environment, and he said it is possible the project could be grandfathered.
“It’s not my intention by anything that I’m proposing to harm a good developer like yourself. It’s not the intention of this. The whole thing is centered around making sure the ordinance is correct,” Nugent said.
He added that he is sure RES would already meet whatever standard a revised ordinance would require.
“The things that you’re talking about are the things that they’re talking about putting in the ordinance,” he said.
Also, moratorium talks are just beginning, but he believes the county must take action.
“I don’t know where this is all going to go, but we have to begin somewhere in trying to control the irresponsible spread of wind turbines. There is a responsible way to do it, and your company is exemplary,” Nugent said. “It’s only in the beginning stages, and I think people are kind of panicking, but it has to be looked at because we know the ordinance is defective, and we can’t ignore that.”
In other business during the meeting, commissioners:
• Elected Michael A. Power to a sixyear term on the Huron County Road Commission. Power is the commission’s current chairman and sought reelection after his term expired.
• Authorized a consulting services agreement between the county and MGT of America, Inc. for one year for the preparation of the 2014 cost allocation plan at a cost not to exceed $7,500.
• Approved a contract with Norm Daniels to complete 2014 appraisal studies at a cost not to exceed $7,000.
• Authorized Pro-Tel Inc. to provide maintenance for Huron County’s 9-1-1 phone system for one year at a cost of $8,400.
• Authorized Wade-Trim Inc. to rectify the spatial accuracy of Huron County’s tax parcel base layer at a cost not to exceed $13,000.
• Submitted a housing application to the Community Development Block Grant Program for a grant in the amount of $200,000. The program is intended to provide housing to low- and moderate-income households in the targeted communities of the City of Bad Axe, the City of Harbor Beach and the Village of Sebewaing.
• Employed Brenda Stomach as a fulltime family court clerk in the Family Division of the circuit court office with a salary of $34,140, effective Jan. 5.
• Granted the request of Huron County Sheriff Deputy Ward Carter to be placed on a leave of absence.