Huron County will have an updated wind energy ordinance effective Nov. 27 after action taken Tuesday by the Huron County Board of Commissioners.
While some opponents say the new rules do not go far enough to protect residents, some argue the ordinance is too restrictive for wind energy developers.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to adopt the ordinance without making any changes, which was recommended by the Huron County Planning Commission. Commissioner Sami Khouri cast the dissenting vote, saying the ordinance should require sound testing at the property line rather than at the dwelling.
The planning commission voted 7-2 to send the ordinance to commissioners following a public hearing on Nov. 4 at the Huron County Expo Center. Planning Commissioners Bernie Creguer and Joel Weber cast the dissenting votes.
Board Chairman John Nugent said the decision was one of the most difficult he has had to make as a commissioner, but he believes the Wind Energy Zoning Committee and Planning Commission struck a good balance between protecting residents and allowing development.
He said all wind developers have helped in developing the ordinance and have made several concessions, but some residents remain concerned about potential health impacts.
“I have to balance on one hand the fact that I know renewables are an important aspect of the future,” he said, adding that he believes global warming is a real threat.
“But at the same time, I know we have to protect people that live near these things as much as we can, and I know that some people will be negatively influenced by whatever we decide here today,” he said. “It’s not a perfect ordinance, but it’s a lot better than what we started with.”
Prior to the vote, Nugent listed a number of questions posed by residents. One, he said, noted shadow flicker is limited to 30-hour per year for both participants and non-participants and asked why non-participants don’t have greater protection.
Jeff Smith, the county’s building and zoning director, said the subcommittee and planning commission spent a great deal of time debating the number of hours he current ordinance has no shadow flicker regulations at all. He said the county has received very few complaints regarding shadow flicker, and the developers addressed all problems in county-zoned townships.
The revised ordinance impacts wind turbine siting in the 16 county zoned townships, including Bingham, Bloomfield, Brookfield, Dwight, Fairhaven, Gore, Grant, Hume, Lincoln, McKinley, Rubicon, Sebewaing, Sheridan, Sherman, Sigel and Winsor.
Meade Township resident Sally Kain, who has been a regular at any wind energy related meeting in Huron County for the past year, said she believes the ordinance is unfair to non-participants and should require setbacks of 1,640 feet, a decibel level of 40 and zero tolerance for shadow flicker to protect those who do not have wind-energy leases. She also feels the county’s complaint resolution policy needs to be more responsive to residents.
Smith previously has said all complaints made to the county regarding turbines sited in county-zoned townships have been addressed.
Richard Krohn, of Elkton, said he believes the reason Huron County has so many turbines is because the ordinance is so relaxed.
“The wind developers can basically do what they see fit, what they want to do, so consequently, we’re getting very heavily populated with them. There are health issues out there. We have them in our neighborhood. … If you follow it at all, they’ve got problems all over the world with them, so I really appreciated whatever you can do to start curbing this development down. We’ve done our share,” he said.
He added the ordinance should address low-frequency sound, which planners decided to exclude until there is a standard.
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