The Huron County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 for a zoning ordinance amendment that halts any new wind energy development for 90 days or until the ordinance is updated with changes recommended by the Wind Energy Zoning Committee.
Commissioners Sami Khoury, John Nugent, Dave Peruski and Ron Wruble voted for the resolution creating a moratorium, and Clark Elftman, Richard Swartzendruber and John Bodis voted against it.
Following the 90 day period, commissioners will have the opportunity to extend the moratorium for another 90 days if the planned changes to the ordinance have not been made.
The Wind Energy Zoning Committee has been working on ordinance revisions for more than a year, and Peruski, who chairs the committee, said he expects it to submit the updates to the planning commission in April.
Acting on a recommendation from County Corporation Council Steve Allen, commissioners also voted to strike wording in the resolution that would have excluded any project for which developers have already submitted a site plan review request to the planning commission.
When the moratorium was introduced by the board, two companies would have qualified for the exclusion, RES Americas and Geronimo Wind Energy. During Wednesday’s Huron County Planning Commission meeting, Heritage Wind Energy submitted a site plan review application for Phase II of the company’s Big Turtle Wind Farm. Phase I of the wind farm consisted of 10 turbines located in Rubicon Township. Phase II adds 15 turbines and extends the wind farm into Bloomfield Township.
Big Turtle’s site plan review request caused the commissioners to reconsider the exclusionary language within the motion, because it demonstrated that commissioners have no way of knowing how much investment any company has made in the planning and development stage.
“An applicant for site plan approval does not have to share their plans with county government, or any government, prior to the time that they make application. … As a governmental entity, we function in the dark with respect to what might be lurking out there and coming forward,” Allen said.
If RES and Geronimo are excluded from the moratorium, the county risks litigation from developers that are also nearing the construction phase of planned projects, he said.
Allen stressed that any wind developer that anticipates beginning construction before the moratorium expires may apply for a variance or waiver, a process that is outlined in the moratorium resolution.
“It gives them a provision to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals to make their argument that they have invested such amount of money and it would be unjust to include them in the moratorium,” Allen said.
Six commissioners voted for striking the language to exclude certain projects, with Swartzendruber casting the dissenting vote. Bodis noted that he voted for the language change only because the county attorney recommended it, but he would not vote for any moratorium.
See next week’s Huron County View for more details on this developing story.
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