BAD AXE – An issue that has been dividing both residents and public officials in Huron County will go before the Huron County Board of Commissioners for a vote Tuesday morning.
Three consecutive public hearings will be held at the Huron Expo Center pertaining to a wind overlay district request by DTE Energy in Lincoln, Dwight, Sigel and Bloomfield townships, starting at 9:20 a.m.
Located at the Huron Community Fairgrounds, the entire regular meeting of the Huron County Board of Commissioners will be held at the Expo Center to accommodate the potential crowd, and begins at 9 a.m.
DTE wants to build 50 to 70 new turbines over 61 square miles across the four townships. The district spans the following acreage in each township: 22,080 in Lincoln, and 5,760 each in Dwight, Sigel and Bloomfield.
Residents Donald Rice and Sue Lange each requested a hearing, and a third will be held for the general public.
Rice’s hearing will be at 9:20 a.m.; Lange’s hearing is at 9:25 a.m.; and the public hearing is at 9:35 a.m. The agenda calls for a vote following the public hearings.
Lange, of Bloomfield Township, requested in a letter to the board that a hearing be held in the evening because of her work obligations.
She also alleged in the letter that due to the time of the previous scheduled hearing being during working hours, and a conflict in dates stated on the meeting notice, her rights under the Open Meetings Act were violated.
Lange told the Tribune that she plans to attend the 9:25 a.m. hearing.
Her letter was part of the information packet sent out to the board prior to the meeting.
Also in that packet were several letters in support of the district, and several speaking out against it.
The Huron County Planning Commission last month voted 7-2 to recommend that the commissioners approve the district.
Before the vote, planners awaited a legal opinion by Clark Hill PLC that said it would be considered “spot zoning” for landowners to opt out of a lease with wind companies.
This means that the county could face legal action if landowners are allowed to opt out.
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.”
The two planning commissioners who voted against the recommendation in July have received criticism from county officials and the public for voting their conscience and ignoring the fact that the overlay district coincides with the county ordinance.
Terry Heck and Carl Duda explained their votes at a recent planning commission meeting.
Heck said he thought voting in favor of the district did not protect the health and welfare of county residents.
Duda said that he was afraid that the wind turbines would “drive people out” of the small communities in which they are located.
If the commissioners approve the project, the issue could then go to a referendum if a valid petition is filed.
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