BAD AXE – More time will be given to make a decision on wind energy, which has taken center stage in recent months as one of the most divisive issues in Huron County.
The decision will be whether to put a halt to wind development for up to six months that would apply strictly to 16 county-zoned townships.
Two more public hearings have been scheduled, allowing residents, businesses and developers to weigh in again before county commissioners make a final decision. The hearings are set for 10 a.m. Thursday, April 2, at the Huron County Circuit Courtroom or Expo Center, whichever is available. If neither is open, it is planned for the board of commissioners room 305 in the county building.
County commissioners were scheduled to make the final vote Tuesday. However, DTE Energy made a request for another public hearing, which the county received Monday afternoon.
DTE’s Ron Chriss said the utility felt it important to properly prepare and take part in the requested hearing.
“We’re very glad that the commission recognizes our request,” Chriss said. “That’s great news.”
Chriss said he was unsure if all commissioners were at the public hearing last week, attended by about 150 people in the Huron County Circuit Courtroom.
“We want to make sure that they hear from the public and hear from us as a landowner our concerns with the potential for a moratorium,” Chriss said. “This is our way of making sure they hear the comments from not only us and other developers. … We want to make sure that the business community and landowners have the opportunity as well.”
The hearing was added to the agenda for commissioners’ Tuesday meeting, but the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act requires local governments to publish a notice not less than 15 days before the hearing.
Because a hearing already took place, the board was not required to hold another. However, the Zoning Enabling Act states that if a property owner requests a hearing by certified mail, the board must conduct a hearing.
“It’s happened in the past; it happened in 2010 when the wind districts originally went in,” said Jeff Smith, the county’s building and zoning director.
Board Chair John Nugent said action can and may be taken following the hearing. He said it is all an attempt to keep the matter open to the public, and that there is nothing underhanded in the process.
“This is not some grand taking of all the county,” Nugent said. “The whole purpose of the moratorium is not to harm anyone, but it’s to give the subcommittee adequate time to revise what we know is a defective ordinance. We’re trying to do this in the best interest of everyone.”
Unsurprisingly, Nugent’s comment was met with disagreement. County Commissioner Rich Swartzendruber took issue with calling the wind ordinance “defective.”
“Defective means, in my mind, there’s a danger to safety, health and welfare,” Swartzendruber said. “To call it defective I think is going too far.”
Swartzendruber said he felt there was nowhere near six months needed to better the ordinance, as the Wind Energy Zoning Committee is a majority of the way through revisions.
Commissioner David Peruski, chair of that committee, says members are “87.8 percent” of the way there after getting a lot done Monday. The committee is focusing on revisions in setbacks, noise, shadow flicker and other regulations.
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