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Planners to meet with acoustics specialists

BAD AXE – On Wednesday, county planners, commissioners and wind energy developers, along with their sound consultants and an independent acoustics firm, all plan to be under the same roof to continue ironing out the future of wind turbines in Huron County.

The special meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the county building in room 305.

At the meeting, the public will have a chance to speak first, according to the agenda. Then, officials will continue revising a new rulebook governing turbines, as they have for nearly two years now.

Shortened from its initial 22 pages to 16, the draft is an overhaul of the county’s 2010 wind energy ordinance. As it stands, it restricts turbines from being put within three miles of the shoreline; caps turbine heights; increases distances turbines must be placed from property, public roads and power lines; adds and tightens sound regulations; and adds limits for shadow flicker. New rules would apply to 16 county-zoned townships.

The largest section, which sets sound regulations, has proved dizzying in its ambiguity. Grand Rapids-based Acoustics By Design is scheduled to attend to explain the complex rules.

Including paying for the firm’s visit, the county will have paid about $35,000 for Acoustics By Design to conduct sound testing near turbines, write an outline for new regulations and review changes made by planners. Officials say taxpayers won’t foot the bill, as the money comes from annual fees developers pay the county.

The acoustics firm isn’t the only source officials have used.

Here’s a rough list of others who have given input: several residents opposed and supportive of wind energy, medical professionals, attorneys, peer-reviewed articles, other wind energy ordinances, sound engineers and consultants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, township supervisors and wind developers.

A six-month moratorium on new wind projects expires near the end of October. Officials aim to get new rules in place before the prohibition period ends. Before being finalized, a public hearing must be held. Then it heads to the Huron County Board of Commissioners for approval.