Despite the Zoning Board of Appeals’ recommendation to deny the application for the Special Use Permit for Pleasant Ridge Wind Energy, the Livingston County Board members deadlocked on the decision to deny Invenergy’s turbine project application 12-12 Thursday night during a crowded meeting in the Pontiac Township High School auditorium.
The deadlock ultimately meant that the motion to quash the project failed.
Soon after the failed motion, a motion to review the project’s application at a future County Board meeting once special considerations and recommendations had been reviewed was passed 14-10.
When the Agriculture and Zoning Committee’s time to report arrived, Committee Chair Bill Flott proposed two motions: first, a vote to deny the application for the Pleasant Ridge wind farm project. Second, if the first motion failed to pass, an alternative motion to delay making a decision until further review.
Before the motions came to a vote, Flott gave the floor to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The ZBA’s report to the council on the wind farm issue was delivered by Jim Griffith, an attorney with the law firm Schain, Banks, Kenny & Schwartz, who was retained as special council for the ZBA.
In his report, he noted that while the ZBA found that the application met or generally met the vague “special use” provisions in the county code, it did not meet other standards, such as Standard 3(ii), which states that “The Special Use will not substantially and permanently injure the appropriate use of neighboring property.”
The Invenergy application also failed to meet Standard 3(iii) of the special use code, which states “The Special Use will not be detrimental to the public convenience and welfare.”
Beyond the County Code, Griffith noted the ZBA also examined the application under its own guidelines; the application failed to meet five of the eight key points that the project was examined under.
The ZBA cited lack of financial assurance for the construction, safety and health fears, and injury to property value as reasons for its findings of noncompliance with its guidelines.
Ultimately, Griffith said that the ZBA did not recommend that application as it stood.
When it came time to vote, board members Kathy Arbogast, Justin Goembel, James Carley, Mark Runyon, William Mays, Stan Weber, Kelly Cochran Cohlman, Tim Shafer, Paul Ritter, Carolyn Gerwin, Vicki Allen, and Flott all voted “yes” on denying the project.
Members Jason Bunting, Robert Weller, Daryl Holt, Jack Vietti, David Heath, John Yoder, Joe Steichen, Mike Ingles, Robert Young, Ronald Kestner, Bill Peterson, and Chairman Marty Fannin voted “no.”
Per Board regulations, the tie vote meant that the motion failed, and that Flott’s second motion was up for vote.
Those who had voted “yes” on the first motion mostly voted “no” on the second and vise versa. However, Flott and Allen voted “yes” again, which meant that application for the Invenergy wind farm project was still in play.
After the final vote on the issue, crowds of county residents poured out of the gymnasium. However, a number stuck around for the public comment session of the meeting, all of them voicing their displeasure with the decision.
“It’s been disheartening to see what goes on at the local level,” Linda Ambrose said. “Listen to the people that the wind farms are going to be around. These are our homes.
“I don’t know what you ran for. I don’t know what the ZBA went through all this for … I don’t know what they do it for. You didn’t listen to them.
“I’m very dismayed.”
Her husband, Tom Ambrose, was equally disappointed.
“Kudos to those who voted with their conscience,” he said. “The people have asked you for the procedure we should follow, we did that, and then this is your answer.
“I hope you sleep well at night. I won’t.”
Nelson Zehr, who had testified at the ZBA hearings, also spoke out.
“This is very disappointing,” he said. “I hope you consider some of the more serious issues we have when looking at the special considerations in the future.”
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