A Sanilac County judge will not force a township planning commission to hold a public hearing this summer on a wind company’s special land use application.
Sanilac County Circuit Judge Donald Teeple denied Exelon’s complaint Monday for immediate superintending control after hearing arguments from lawyers for both the wind company and Bridgehampton Township.
Exelon had filed the complaint – which requested the judge overrule the Bridgehampton Township planning commission – 10 days after the planning commission voted to table a public hearing on Exelon’s application for a special land use permit for its planned development, Michigan Wind 3.
“The delay is a political play by the Planning Commission to deprive Michigan Wind of its rights …” the complaint read.
“Anti-wind opponents hope to delay any action on wind energy until November when the township might elect new township trustees who will stop any wind projects.”
Mike Homier, a Grand Rapids lawyer hired last week to represent the township in the suit, said the planning commission faces no deadlines in scheduling the hearing.
“The planning commission is not compelled either by state law or by ordinance to set a public hearing in a particular time frame,” Homier said.
“They have considerable latitude in determining when a public hearing should be scheduled and heard.”
In an email, Exelon spokeswoman Kristen Otterness said the company was disappointed by the judge’s decision.
“By not acting, the planning commission is denying the project and participating landowners of the right to have the application considered,” Otterness said.
“Exelon has followed the township’s process to obtain permits for the Michigan Wind 3 project, and our application is in compliance with the township’s ordinance, which was amended in 2015.”
Exelon’s plan for 50 windmills in Bridgehampton Township – part of a larger 68-turbine wind farm – has been met with controversy since late December when resident Roger Knight wrote a letter to township board members alleging conflicts of interest among those trustees who held leases with Exelon.
The letter also claimed residents had not been properly notified of the Jan. 5 hearing because the board had not personally delivered notices to each impacted property owner, a requirement of the township’s zoning ordinance.
The letter caused the board to cancel the planned Jan. 5 public hearing and eliminate the requirement for personal delivery of meeting notices. The ordinance revision was challenged by a referendum, which will be voted on in August.
Homier said the pending referendum, the 1,500-page special land use permit application and possible supplemental reports not yet received were more than enough reason for the planning commission to table the public hearing.
“There is certainly good reason why the planning commission voted to hold off on a public hearing until after the August primary,” Homier said.
“But, make no mistake, there will be a public hearing.
“The planning commission cannot in perpetuity keep pushing it down the road without good reason to do so.”
Bridgehampton Township Supervisor Mike Haggerty, who holds a lease with Exelon, said he wasn’t opposed to the judge’s ruling.
“The planning commission, for their reasons, feel they need more time,” Haggerty said.