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Board OKs wind turbine rule changes

ESCANABA – The Delta County Board of Commissioners tentatively approved several revisions to the county’s ordinance on wind turbines during its regular meeting Tuesday, but not without protest from some Garden residents. Amendments were sent to the county board by the planning commission in late August.

Among the revisions the board voted in favor of adopting was a setback increase to 1,640 feet from non-participating property lines. Currently, these setbacks are set at 1.1 times the height of the turbine from non-participating property lines or 1,320 feet from a residence, whichever is greater.

“I’m inclined to go towards larger setbacks…but I’m not trying to be exclusionary towards progress,” Commissioner David Moyle said.

Setbacks for turbines from state and federal lands, roads, rights-of-way, commercial properties, and industrial properties were set at 1.5 times the height of the turbine.

The board also voted to adopt a proposed revision that would require wind turbine developers to ensure the existence of funds for decommissioning turbines by buying bonds. Though the possibility of using an irrevocable letter of credit for this purpose was proposed, Commissioner David Rivard said this would be insufficient.

“I’ve come to the conclusion (that) a bond is necessary for the protection of the county and its finances for now and for the immediate future,” he said. “I will not accept anything less than a bond.”

Some of the board’s decisions were met with controversy from citizens in attendance at the meeting. Among other complaints, Garden resident Scott Lucas said the proposed revisions to the amendment could make it exclusionary to future wind turbine development on the Garden Peninsula.

“You’re just making so many mistakes – I just can’t believe it,” Lucas said.

Planning Commission Chairman Benny Herioux also voiced his dissatisfaction with the proposed changes, which he said differed heavily from the commission’s intent in developing the proposed amendment.

“It’s altogether a new ordinance,” he said.

Zoning and Building Administrator Dan Menacher emphasized the revisions voted on by the board Tuesday have not yet been finalized. Before official action is taken on the ordinance, legal language based on the board’s decisions must be prepared.

“It needs to be written to an amendatory ordinance,” Menacher said.

This will be written by Menacher and County Administrator Ryan Bergman. A public hearing on the draft of the amendment will take place at the board’s next meeting on Nov. 3.

“We’ll put this to bed, hopefully,” Rivard said.