CLINTON COUNTY – Plans for a wind farm in central Clinton County that has been mired in controversy and legal battles for years appear to have been canceled.
Forest Hills Energy had proposed a 40-turbine wind farm in Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships between Fowler and St. Johns. However, a special use permit for the development expired Feb. 1. The county’s board of commissioners did not receive a request for an extension. That permit had received a one-year extension in January of 2015.
County Administrator Ryan Wood said project developers would need to apply for a new permit in order to move forward.
“They would essentially be starting over at the beginning with a new permit,” said Wood.
Calls to Forest Hills Energy requesting comment were not returned.
The county board first approved the special use permit in 2012 after determining that the wind farm project met the regulations of the county’s zoning ordinance. However, the boards of each of the three townships also passed regulations in 2012 restricting height, setback, noise or other elements of the wind farm.
Circuit Court Judge Randy Tahvonen ruled in October 2013 that the county’s zoning ordinance was the controlling ordinance, stating that the townships did not follow the proper procedure for creating zoning regulations. The townships appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. In December, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued a ruling that affirmed Tahvonen’s decision,
The townships filed an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court in July after a request for a rehearing at the Court of Appeals was defeated.
Attorney Bill Fahey, who is representing the townships, said he expects to hear a decision regarding that appeal soon.
“The process of deciding applications usually takes six months,” said Fahey. “So we could receive a decision at the end of this month, or possibly next month.”
Should the developers decide to continue with the project they will find a new set of township ordinances to deal with. Bengal and Dallas townships have formed planning commissions. Dallas Township has enacted an interim zoning ordinance while Bengal Township is in the process of developing a zoning ordinance.
Meanwhile Essex Township enacted new regulations on wind farms, but did not include restrictions on height, distance and setbacks.
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