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Delta board decides to rework wind turbine rules

ESCANABA – After tentatively adopting controversial revisions to the county’s ordinance on wind turbines at its Oct. 20 meeting, the Delta County Board voted Tuesday to reject this amendment and tentatively adopt a handful of new setbacks.

The board chose not to adopt the amendment on a 4-1 vote. Commissioners cited the 1,640-foot setbacks from non-participating property lines listed in the amendment as a key reason behind their lack of support for it.

“I think that what was decided on last time was too restrictive, and I think it has to be reviewed tonight,” board Chairwoman Mary Harrington said.

Commissioner David Rivard, who cast the only vote against rejecting the previous amendment, said he did not want to start the revision process over again. He also said any choice the board made on the issue would be met with disapproval from some citizens.

“We don’t have the golden sword to cut the baby in half and say ‘here you go, folks,’ ” he said.

After rejecting the revisions, the board developed and tentatively approved a few new turbine setbacks. These setbacks – which were listed as two times the height of turbines to non-participating residential properties, 1.1 times the height of turbines to roads and right-of-ways, and 1.5 times the height of turbines to state campgrounds – will be voted on at a later date.

The board’s decisions regarding wind turbines were made after a public hearing on the amendment. Many of the people who spoke during the hearing voiced their disapproval of the amendment, particularly due to the economic growth they said wind turbines have provided.

“if we don’t do something along the way to encourage investment in our community, we’re not going to have a community,” John Haindl of Cooks said.

However, some speakers applauded the commissioner’s previous decision and requested they go forward with the revisions as presented.

“It is important, with this zoning, that you hold the developers accountable,” Garden Township resident Nicole Young said.

To continue the discussion on this topic, a committee of the whole meeting was set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Delta County Service Center. The meeting will be a work session for county commissioners, the planning commission and other county government officials, but members of the public are also welcome to attend. No action will be taken during this meeting, and any suggestions made by the committee will be sent to the county board for review.

Commissioner Patrick Johnson thanked the residents of Delta County for their passion for and involvement in the process, which he believes could be completed soon.

“I appreciate the patience that the public has shown us,” he said. “I know it’s wearing thin. We’re almost there.”