BAD AXE – A public hearing is planned for next month for a new proposed wind overlay district in Sigel and Sherman townships.
The Huron County Planning Commission on Wednesday scheduled the hearing for 7 p.m. Oct. 19.
NextEra Energy Resources filed the application for the district last week for the overlay district that will also reach into Sand Beach and Delaware townships, both of which are self-zoned.
The planning commissions of each entity will vote after the public hearings are held on whether to recommend that their governing bodies approve the district.
Next, the issue will go before the board of trustees in Sand Beach and Delaware townships.
For the turbines to be built in Sherman and Sigel townships, the issue must go before the Huron County Board of Commissioners for final approval.
The wind park is expected to consist of 65 turbines and will produce 150 megawatts of electricity.
In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, members of the public have been pointing fingers at two Huron County Planning Commission members for violating commission by-laws.
When a commissioner literally pointed back during Wednesday night’s meeting, things got tense.
The commission postponed action on a wind overlay district that DTE Energy originally proposed in February, following the advice of the county’s corporate counsel, Steve Allen.
Lincoln Township resident Les Booms expressed his “disappointment in your lack of action tonight on the Lincoln Township boondoggle.”
Booms was referring to the overlay district in Lincoln, Bloomfield, Dwight and Sigel townships, which was recently sent back to the planning commission by the Huron County Board of Commissioners.
“I’m disappointed in the board of commissioners and their lack of action,” Booms said.
He said the issue should move forward so that a referendum can be held on the issue, which would be possible if a valid petition is filed if and when the Huron County Board of Commissioners approve the district.
The county commissioners last month sent the issue back to the planning commission because Lincoln Township is taking steps to become self-zoned.
When the planning commission originally recommended that the county commission approve the DTE district in July, planning commissioners Carl Duda and Terry Heck voted against it.
Dennis O’Neil of Harbor Beach, who owns 55 acres in Lincoln Township, called them both out for what he says are violations to the planning commission’s by-laws.
According to the by-laws, “Once a vote is taken and an issue is decided by vote, the duty of each member of the commission is to represent the position reflected by the outcome of the vote.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, O’Neil took Duda and Heck to task for publicly speaking out against wind energy.
And, during final commissioner comments, Heck and Duda defended themselves.
Heck, while shaking his finger at O’Neil, said his constitutional right to free speech allows him to speak “whether I’m on the board or not.”
“I got on this planning commission to protect the people of Huron County, and I’ll always, always do that. … You cannot destroy your neighbor’s quality of life. Just like you can’t sit on your property with a 10,000 decibel speaker and blast it at your neighbor. It doesn’t give you the right – even though it’s your property. Same thing with these windmills.”
“What gives him the right to sit there and harp at me?” O’Neil replied. “The bylaws state that when he walks out of this room, he has to go by the majority vote. Everybody might as well know. It’s time to cut the bull—-. Cut the bull—-!”
Duda said that he voted against the district because there are so many residential parcels throughout it, which makes it unsuitable for wind turbines.
“Carl, if you want to change the ordinance, let’s talk ordinance,” said Jeff Smith, county director of building and zoning, “Let’s not point fingers or blame somebody, or blame the next guy.”
Heck said he was all for changing the ordinance.
“If we have an ordinance in this county, that is an ordinance that’s been approved and is in place,” said Clark Brock, planning commission chair, “and people present to us that meet the criteria of that ordinance, then we’re bound to go and approve (it).