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County plans to take up wind energy debate Tuesday

BAD AXE – A special meeting next week will provide an opportunity for “robust discussion” on a potential countywide moratorium on wind energy development.

The meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday before the Huron County Board of Commissioners’ meeting of the whole at the county building in room 305. It is unclear if commissioners will discuss the documents publicly or in closed session.

Board Chair John Nugent said the county received, about four days ago, documents on how to initiate a six-month halt on wind development from Michael Homier of the Grand Rapids-based Foster Swift law firm.

At the end of 2014, the county agreed to pay up to $1,000 to the firm to prepare the documents.

“We now have in our possession a document that would put in place a moratorium, provided it follows all the steps required by law,” Nugent said.

Nugent says it is a “very simple, straighforward document” and similar versions have been used by other communities.

Both the board’s attorney, Steve Allen, and Homier said they couldn’t discuss the documents provided to Huron County because it is an attorney-client work product.

Homier, who said he has practiced municipal law for 15 years, told the Tribune the documents are similar to what he has provided to Clinton, Schoolcraft and Lenawee counties.

“The concept is the same; to create some breathing space so that the county can consider appropriate amendments (to the ordinance),” Homier said.

On Tuesday, commissioners considered entering into closed session to discuss the documents. The board’s attorney, Steve Allen, advised against it, but said a closed session could be called to review a written legal opinion from Homier, once it is received. A closed session also could include input from Matt Zimmerman, a Grand Rapids attorney for Geronimo Energy, Allen said.

Geronimo is currently working to develop its Apple Blossom Wind Farm, which would locate about 50 wind turbines in Winsor and McKinley townships.

“I think it’s advisable that we have as much input from all sources as possible on this issue,” Allen said of a moratorium on wind development. “It’s a hot topic issue.”

If pursued, parts of the procedure to put a moratorium in place would require a first reading by the board, public hearing and notice of adoption.

“It at least has to be considered,” Nugent said. “The important thing is to try to protect all people.”