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County talks wind turbine ordinance

ESCANABA – A crowd of about 70 people attended a Delta County Board of Commissioners meeting on the county’s ordinance regarding wind turbines Tuesday.

No formal decisions on the ordinance were made during the meeting. Instead, commissioners welcomed public comments about the turbines, heard a review of the ordinance’s history, and were given a chance to voice any concerns they had about the document.

During the meeting, Zoning and Building Administrator Dan Menacher spoke about the planning commission’s involvement with the ordinance. For roughly the past two years, the commission has discussed wind turbine-related topics such as setbacks, decommissioning procedures, shadow flicker, and conflict resolution guidelines. This culminated in the decision to send their suggestions to the board of commissioners.

The planning commission has gone through this at length,” Menacher said.

Changes the planning commission suggested be made to the ordinance included a requirement turbines be measured from their center for the purpose of calculating setbacks, a passage limiting shadow flicker on non-participating dwellings to 30 hours per year, guidelines for estimating the costs of decommissioning turbines, and a requirement that turbine owners try to respond to any complaints they have received within 24 hours

“Basically, this is what we’ve boiled it down to and what the planning commission has submitted,” Menacher said.

In addition to these proposals, commissioners discussed some changes they would like to make to the ordinance. One possibility brought up by the board was measuring turbine setbacks from property lines instead of dwellings, as is currently the case in Delta County.

“I would prefer that we went to a system that measured to a lease boundary line,” County Administrator Ryan Bergman said.

Another suggestion made during the meeting was to add a requirement that turbine owners have performance bonds for their turbines. This would ensure the existence of funds for decommissioning defunct turbines, even if the companies owning them were sold or went out of business.

During the public comment section of the meeting, citizens spoke both for and against wind energy development in Delta County. Those against wind farms in the area discussed the effects of turbines on property values and the turbines’ visual impact.

“The thought of that (view) being altered in any way…just seems like it’s a disaster to allow happen,” Garden resident Sara Bagley said.

People supporting wind energy development in Delta County cited economic growth and environmental health as benefits of the turbines.

“I think clean, renewable energy is one of the best opportunities the U.P. has,” Garden resident Tyler Lucas said

Representatives from Heritage Sustainable Energy, including founder and chief executive Marty Lagina, were also present at the meeting. Lagina said he and other Heritage employees were pleased with the county’s efforts to amending their wind ordinance.

“We think you did a great job of balancing it,” he said. “We support what you’ve done here today.”

Though attendance at Tuesday’s meeting was unusually high, Chair Mary Harrington said the citizens present did an admirable job of keeping the proceedings orderly.

“It’s nice to see that we can get together and have a meeting (on) something that’s so important and be civil,” Harrington said.

The ordinance will next be discussed at the board’s Oct. 20 meeting. There, the board will continue to address their concerns and ideas for the ordinance; depending on their progress, they may also take a vote on the possibility of adopting the amendments.