BAD AXE – The decision, or rather legal opinion, on how the county should handle a request from many residents wanting to opt-out from a wind energy project will wait another month.
DTE Energy is planning to build 50 to 70 wind turbines spanning 61 square miles. The area includes nearly all of Lincoln Township, where the plan has seen both positive and negative arguments from the public.
Last month, planners and the county’s attorney, Steve Allen, made the decision to seek legal opinion through Clark Hill PLC – spending $5,000 for the advice – on how to handle opt-outs. The opt-outs would create spot zoning, which can occur when officials zone a small area or parcel for uses contrary to surrounding areas.
However, that next step halted Wednesday night.
“We are not going to review the legal opinion tonight as it wasn’t made available to us,” said Chairman Clark Brock, noting the opinion is in the hands of county commissioners who intend on addressing it at their June 14 meeting.
Allen said he prepared a memorandum for Clark Hill and sent it to the firm. When he made the request, he anticipated passing out the opinion to planners at the June 1 meeting, but he didn’t receive it until Tuesday.
Although the planning commission didn’t review the opinion, Allen said DTE still hasn’t provided all of the information required for its plans.
“It’s still my opinion that the applicant hasn’t provided sufficient information,” Allen said.
“It’s my advice to this planning commission that you ask the applicant to identify the non-farm uses for the areas where there are minimal non-farm uses as part of their application process,” Allen added, later explain ing he wants planners to be in a position where they can say they followed the zoning ordinance and considered all of the factors.
DTE, loaded with representatives at the meeting, responded to Allen’s query.
“Honestly, this is extraordinary,” said Matt Wagner, DTE project manager. “We thought the first follow up of questions or request of additional information was extraordinary based on past requests.”
Wagner felt things were going beyond the overlay process and moving into the site plan approval process, but did acknowledge DTE will look into Allen’s request to help move forward with the process.
Commissioners are scheduled to meet June 14 to review the opinion. The issue will appear on the July 6 planning commission agenda.
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