HURON COUNTY – The frustration felt by county planners after a draft of the proposed wind ordinance was reviewed by sound experts and returned with seemingly incomprehensible scientific terminology was significantly reduced after the experts explained the changes.
Acoustics by Design President Kenric Van Wyk walked Huron County Board of Commission and Planning Commission members through the changes during a special joint meeting Sept. 16.
The current version of the draft limits turbine noise and shadow flicker; restricts turbines from being sited within three miles of the shoreline; puts a limit on turbine heights; and increases distances turbines must be placed from property, public roads and power lines. New rules would apply to 16 county zoned townships.
Many of the questions Van Wyk answered were related to the technical terms ABD inserted into the draft, which planners have opposed using because they want it to be understandable by an average person.
Van Wyk said much of the phrasing is unavoidable if board members want the ordinance to be legal and defendable.
“We didn’t come up with these. These are technical definitions that are straight out of the book,” he said.
During the meeting, Van Wyk and his associate made a few minor tweaks to the draft at the recommendations of commissioners, planning commissioners and Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith.
Now, the planning commission must review those changes and make decisions about a few controversial points at their next meeting, Oct. 7.
One of those points will be the number ratio of post-construction sound tests the ordinance will require per turbine. The current draft requires at least one test per turbine and at least eight per wind park, regardless of the park’s size. That requirement is strongly opposed by wind developers, which also had experts at the meeting.
Richard Lampeter, of Epsilon Associates, said a one-to-one ratio testing ratio requirement would be cost prohibitive, and most oridances require a one-to-six or one-to-10 ratio.
Van Wyk said the changes his company made to the ordinance took a conservative approach to protecting the health and welfare of citizens, which the county’s government is sworn to protect and has a clear priority over the desires of wind energy developers.
“These are going to be here for a long time. A one-to-one ratio best protects the residents,” he said.
Van Wyk also discussed the planning commission’s decision to conduct sound testing near residences rather than at property lines. He said most oridinances call for testing at property boundaries, which he said provides better protection to residents.
During public comment, Meade Township resident Rita Parsch pleaded with Van Wyk to add to the ordinance restrictions on infrasound. Sounds under 20 hertz are not addressed in the current ordinance because no standard currently exists to test those sound levels.
“Just because ANSI standard doesn’t recognize doesn’t mean it doesn’t physically affect humans. I am human, and it is affecting me. I hope that it doesn’t hurt anyone else,” she said.
Van Wyk agreed infrasound should be regulated, but he recommends the county wait until the American National Standards Institute creates a standard for low-frequency sounds.
Planning Commission Chairman Clark Brock said county planners have a lot to think about before their next meeting, during which they hope to finalize their changes before sending it to the Huron County Board of Commissioners.
Commissioners hope to enact the ordinance before the moratorium on wind energy development expires this fall.
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