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Attorneys say zoning can’t be changed for landowners who signed contract

BAD AXE – Bottom line: you cannot opt-out once the contract is signed.

Plain and simple.

County commissioners received the legal opinion from Clark Hill PLC this week on how to handle requests from residents wanting to opt-out from DTE Energy’s new wind energy project. Previously, the county agreed to spend up to $5,000 to seek a legal opinion from the firm.

DTE is planning to build 50 to 70 turbines spanning 61 square miles – mostly in Lincoln Township.

The five-page opinion, in part, states: “Therefore, it is our opinion that a decision to permit property owners to opt out will likely be constructed as spot zoning because it creates small-scale zoning pockets within the larger overlay district. If challenged, the county’s action in allowing owners to opt out may be invalidated. Accordingly, it is not recommended that the county allow property owners to opt out of the overlay district.”

“I agree with that opinion,” said county attorney Stephen Allen.

“To allow opt-outs, it may constitute spot zoning,” Allen explained, adding if the county allowed leaseholders to opt-out, it could expose the county to liabilities.

Residents have packed board and planning commission meetings to voice their support and opposition on wind turbines and the potential new project.

For those interested, copies of the opinion are available to the public at the county building.