BAD AXE – On the same day the governor signed into law a plan to fix Michigan roads, ending a lengthy debate in the Legislature, a local agreement was also reached: Huron County has a new, stricter and more defined rulebook to govern wind turbines.
The 16-page wind energy ordinance, which county commissioners approved in a 6-1 vote Tuesday, finalizes an effort nearly two years in the making.
Effective Nov. 27, notable changes for 16 county-zoned townships:
• Increase wind turbine setbacks from property, public roads and power lines
• Prevent turbines from being sited within three miles of the Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay shorelines
• Limit turbine height to 499 feet
• Regulate shadow flicker
“This is going to be one of the most difficult votes I’ve made on this board,” Board Chair John Nugent said.
“There are faults in the ordinance I believe, and there are weaknesses, but there are some real good strengths.”
A subcommittee of commissioners and planners, the county’s attorney, building and zoning director and residents started the process, meeting for the first time in May last year. They submitted it to county planners this summer. Throughout the process, residents called for stricter regulations. Others have said the changes approved Tuesday are sufficient, while some indicated the 2010 ordinance is adequate and an update wasn’t needed.
Before voting in favor, Nugent said it’s not a perfect ordinance but a lot better than a 2010 version.
Commissioner Ron Wruble said it’s a step in the right direction, but the ordinance may require tweaks going forward.
The minimal formal complaints of wind turbines officials say have been filed with the county’s building and zoning office indicate there aren’t problems, but Wruble says there are. And it’s untrue to say because there is no “official problem” there is not a problem with wind turbines, he said.
“We have a lot of things going for us besides wind turbines,” Wruble said of Huron County.
When drafting a new ordinance, the majority of debate was tuned to regulating, testing and measuring sound from wind turbines – now the ordinance’s largest and most detailed section.
Commissioner Sami Khoury, before casting the dissenting vote, said he strongly disagreed with an acoustics firm’s recommendation of sound testing turbines 50 feet from a façade; it should be taken from a resident’s property line, he said.
A moratorium preventing new wind energy projects in 16 townships gave county planners a six-month cushion to overhaul the 2010 ordinance. It recently expired.
County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith previously told the Tribune he believes the ordinance is one of the best ones out there.
“It will have an impact on projects, yet still be reasonable and protect everyone in the county. We want responsible development. And consistency,” he said.
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