HURON COUNTY – Planners hoped to finish reviewing and revising proposed changes to the wind turbine section of the zoning ordinance during a special meeting, but opted to set another meeting rather than rush through decisions that could forever change the landscape of Huron County.
The Huron County Planning Commission made some changes as they worked through the revised ordinance, which a Wind Energy Zoning Committee worked for more than a year to update.
Several planning commissioners questioned why the wind committee set a lower decibel limit for non-participating parcels than was recommended by Acoustics by Design, an independent acoustical consulting firms hired in August to review the county’s ordinance and suggest changes so that it better protects residents from the potentially negative effects of living near a wind farm.
While ABD suggested a 45 decibel limit between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., the wind committee set the limit at 40 dBA.
Richard Lampeter, senior consultant for the environmental consulting firm Epsilon Associates, told planning commissioners that the World Health Organization agrees a limit of 45 dBA does not cause sleep disturbances. “Forty-five is an acceptable level. It corresponds to 30 decibles inside a home with the windows partially closed,” he said.
Brock conducted a straw poll of the planning commissioners, with 8 to 1 agreeing to change the limit to 45 dBA.
Another change planners made was to the number of hours per year non-participants can experience shadow flicker. The wind committee set the limit at 10 hours, but planners increased it to 30 after wind energy representatives complained that 10 hours is too restrictive.
County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith said his office has received very few complaints about flicker, and there is a very good mitigation process to prevent future problems if residents do complain. Planners also changed the setback from non-participating parcels. While the wind committee included a 1,640 foot setback, planning commissioners decreased it to 1,320 feet. Chairman Clark Brock added that landowners can sign a waiver to allow turbines closer than the setbacks would allow.
After three hours, planning commissioners voted to adjourn and schedule another special meeting for 7 p.m. July 16.
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