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Commissioners pick one of their own for spot with planners

BAD AXE – Huron County commissioners on Tuesday sought a candidate to join eight others on the planning commission, which will advise on whether to impose a halt for up to six months on wind energy development.

The board chose one of its own for the job.

Commissioner David Peruski will serve as the ninth county planner, in a decision that “stinks to the high heavens,” according to Commissioner Clark Elftman.

Peruski also serves as chair of the Wind Energy Zoning Committee.

One resident dubbed Peruski’s appointment a “triple threat.”

“If he’s appointed, can we call him a triple threat or a triple option?” Keith Iseler, of Port Hope, said before Peruski was appointed. “He’s on the special wind committee. He’s on the planning and zoning. He’s still a commissioner.”

The board approved Peruski’s appointment 4-2, with Commissioners Elftman and Rich Swartzendruber opposed. Peruski abstained.

Peruski said he was seeking the temporary, unexpired one-year term on the planning commission previously held by Swartzendruber, who under advice from the board’s attorney resigned his seat as a planner after he was elected to the county commission. The resignation was to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.

Asked if he felt the positions would conflict, Peruski said no and that he also was relying on advice from the board’s attorney.

The appointment followed a 5-2 vote to send to the planning commission for review an amendment to the county’s wind ordinance allowing a six-month halt on wind development.

Peruski said he would vote as he sees fit, both at the planning level and again as a commissioner, and won’t recuse himself unless he stands to personally gain from the decision.

“I don’t have a contract for wind energy development, I was never offered a contract,” Peruski said. “I don’t really have a conflict of interest there.”

During candidate interviews, Swartzendruber asked Peruski to rank his general view toward wind energy development on a scale of one to 10, with one being completely opposed and 10 in total support.

“Over time it’s probably more of, maybe, a five and a half,” Peruski said. “I’m not wild about wind turbines but … I realize I represent a constituency that has them.”

During the next 10 to 30 years, Peruski said he would first like to see a three-mile setback from the county’s shoreline prohibiting wind development to protect tourism.

“It’s a large part of Huron County’s quality,” he said.

He said he’d also like to see more production and processing of agricultural products.

Commissioners interviewed five other candidates. They were: former commissioner Steve Vaughan; Pigeon resident Perry Collins; Doug Marker of Bay Port, a grain elevator manager for Star of the West Milling Co.; Bob McLean, vice chair of Paris Township’s planning commission; and Brion Dickens, who chairs Oliver Township’s planning commission. Both McLean and Dickens were denied spots last year.