ST. JOHNS – Developers of a proposed wind farm in Clinton County have received an extension to begin the project.
The Clinton County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 on Tuesday to extend a special use permit for the Forest Hill Energy-Fowler Farms LLC wind farm for one year. Commissioners Kam Washburn and Adam Stacey voted against the extension.
The $120 million project calls for the construction of approximately 40 wind turbines, each about 427 feet tall, in the townships of Bengal, Dallas and Essex. The project has been tied up in the courts over whether regulations passed by the three townships limiting wind farms were legal. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a Circuit Court ruling in favor of the developer, but township officials are awaiting a rehearing with the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Bengal Township officials sent a letter to the county board requesting the members to not allow the extension on the grounds that the developers could have proceeded with the project despite the ongoing litigation, which the township said was beyond the developers’ control.
Speaking for the county’s planning commission, Stacey said the commission members did not agree with the township’s assessment.
“The planning commission took the stance that the ongoing litigation did not allow the project to move forward,” said Stacey.
The county board first approved the special use permit in 2012 after determining that the wind farm project met the regulations of the county’s zoning ordinance. The three townships also passed regulations in 2012 restricting height, setback, noise or other elements of the wind farm.
Clinton County Circuit Court Judge Randy Tahvonen ruled in October 2013 that the county’s zoning ordinance was the controlling ordinance. The townships appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. In December, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued a ruling that affirmed Tahvonen’s decision, stating that the townships did not follow the proper procedure for creating zoning regulations.
The boards of all three townships held a joint meeting days after the Court of Appeals decision was announced and chose to request the rehearing.
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