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County discusses proposed wind turbine cap of 550

BAD AXE – A late motion to cap the number of wind turbines in Huron County was tabled at Tuesday’s Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The cap number would be 550 under the resolution added to the agenda by Commissioner Clark Elftman.

“This cap would not affect those whose overlays have been approved,” states the resolution.

The board voted 6-1 to table the issue for up to 90 days, pending information about how many turbines are currently in the county, how many are being constructed, and how many have been approved.

County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith was out of the office Tuesday, and therefore unable provide the numbers to the board.

The intent of the resolution was for it to be countywide, Elftman said, and officials discussed the repercussions of that on self-zoned townships.

“You could make an argument that you could just have an umbrella ordinance for the county, and then any time the township had its own ordinance, that would preempt the county’s zoning ordinance as long as that township zoning ordinance was in effect,” County Corporate Counsel Steve Allen said.

“It directs our county planning commission to consider the number of turbines in the county,” Commissioner David G. Peruski said “but not necessarily have jurisdiction over the townships that zone themselves.”

The policy could be amended in the future to allow more turbines, Allen said.

“If we do nothing and we just leave our ordinance the way it is to regulate, ultimately, there’s a saturation point just based on the setbacks. … So we should know what the saturation point is for the non-county zoning communities, we should know what the saturation point is for the county,”

He added that issues such as flicker and infrasound from turbines could be further examined, along with what happens when the projects are decommissioned.

Allen called the resolution a “talking point” that would get the process of capping turbines started.

Commissioner Rich Swartzendruber said he was let down by the idea of the resolution.

“I’m personally disappointed that we spent hours of time, along with commissioner Peruski and others, trying to improve and develop the wind ordinance that this county has.”

The wind ordinance had been approved by a 6-1 vote.

“And now it seems to be proposed to ignore that ordinance … which involved tens of thousands of dollars spent to get it right, to protect the health, safety and welfare of people, and to also provide property rights for those who wish to have turbines,” Swartzendruber said.

Wruble questioned why Elftman made the move to cap wind turbines.

“This … came out of left field, and kind of threw me for a loop,” Wruble said.

Elftman said he first made the suggestion three years ago that turbines should be capped at 500.

Commissioner John A. Nugent said he was shocked as well.

“I admire you for your political courage,” he told Elftman. “You certainly do stand by what you say.”

Wruble said he agreed with the motion, but could not vote on it until he had more information.

“There’s certain areas of our county where we host wind turbines, and there’s other areas that are trying to host wind turbines that they shouldn’t be in,” he said.

Elftman was the only commissioner that voted against tabling the issue. Wruble made the motion to do so.

The resolution notes that the cap is permitted under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.