BAD AXE – It’s no secret that since 2007, when wind turbines first started turning in Huron County, local governments have spent more time deciding wind energy issues than any other.
So much so, that important tasks like creating a plan for if a disaster strikes the county, finalizing zoning for the airport and even finishing an overhaul of both the county’s master plan and wind energy regulations have all sat on hold for a year or more – due to monthly agendas stacked with wind duties.
Eyeing a batch of unfinished business, the planning commission on Wednesday made a call for help to county commissioners: planners agreed to a motion requesting help to complete the list of unfinished items on their agenda.
“We’re going to run down on four or more things that have been on our agenda for a year, or more,” Planning Chair Clark Brock said.
Brock voiced frustration of the time Jeff Smith doesn’t have to work on issues outside of wind energy. Smith’s building and zoning office handles most of the ins and outs of wind energy items.
During most meetings in the past year, planners have sat in front of five-inch binders detailing wind developers’ project plans. Other communications, from letters to emails regarding wind energy, flood the building and zoning office. When planers ask Smith of progress toward unfinished business items unrelated to wind energy, he typically says he has not had time.
One of the areas of the zoning ordinance Smith and the planning commission have wanted to revisit is increasing size limits for accessory buildings. Last September, Brock said residents “want bigger structures to store their toys.” Brock and Smith say that demand hasn’t changed.
An idea planners floated to lighten the load was to add a clerical position in the office. Another involved paying outside consultants, like Spicer Group, to help.
Member David Peruski, also a county commissioner, said commissioners are aware of what’s going on and the board’s finance committee and personnel committee, which he chairs, would meet on the matter.
Meanwhile, work on a master plan – the framework for land use, zoning, economic development, public transportation and human services for the entire county – has lagged. Last March, Smith said planners wanted to do an overhaul of the 1993 plan. They also want to incorporate a mitigation plan for if a disaster strikes the county.
And while progress has been made on a complete rewrite of wind energy regulations – a process that has stretched more than 18 months, with work from a nine-member subcommittee and input from outside consultants, developers and residents – full agendas at regular meetings haven’t allowed ample time to review the new draft.
Adding to that, planners continue to receive lengthy documents to review from developers in response to the proposed regulations, which some claim will zone turbines out of the county.
To get an exclusive time slot, Brock asked planners to set a special meeting. It’s scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 24 – the county pays $600 for the planning commission to hold such special meetings, compared to the $400 it costs to hold a regular meeting. At a later hearing, ordinance changes will be formally introduced to the public.
“I would like to see this project move, whether we agree or disagree,” Brock said, asking members to “come with your thoughts, come with your plans, come with your direction because I would hope we have our last few thoughts on this.”
“I would hope this doesn’t last all summer,” he said.
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