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Some ask to be left out of wind turbine district

BAD AXE – Huron County officials are tackling another wind overlay district application, for which a public hearing was held Wednesday night at the Huron County Expo Center.

The Huron County Planning Commission will revisit the application by Huron Wind LLC (a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources) in November, once a map has been drawn that shows parcels whose owners want to opt out of the district.

The commission received several letters from landowners without contracts with NextEra that do not want to be a part of the district, which will be located in Sherman and Sigel townships.

Daniel and LaDonna Volmering, Sherman Township landowners, wrote such a letter, and LaDonna also addressed the commission.

“We want to exercise our property rights and opt out,” she said, while reading a letter from someone who was unable to attend.

“If you look carefully, you will notice a large section in the middle of the overlay that is nonparticipating. We feel that consideration should be given to us, that the overlay borders should be rerun to remove the opt-out, nonparticipating property owners who have not signed.”

County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith will reproduce the map accordingly, and county Corporate Counsel Steve Allen will review it in order to determine whether or not this constitutes spot zoning.

The commission will revisit the issue at its Nov. 2 meeting.

Spot zoning, which many officials say is generally a bad practice, can occur when officials zone a small area or parcel for uses contrary to surrounding areas.

Of residents living in the proposed district or within 300 feet of it, 14 spoke in support of the overlay district, one person spoke against it, and a few others had questions or did not state their position.

When comment was opened to county-zoned residents, a few people spoke against the district, and no one spoke in favor of it.

Sally Kain spoke when the hearing was open to anyone who wanted to speak, and said Huron County has enough turbines.

Dave Kramer, 84, owns property in Sherman and Sand Beach townships and said he would like to have turbines on his property for a “tool to use as a hedge against inflation,” and that his insurance premium is going to double in January.

Others praised wind energy as clean, renewable and a good alternative to fossil fuels. They also praised the potential positive financial impact on the area.

Those who were against the overlay zone stated that the turbines are too noisy, and that it’s decreasing the quality of life in Huron County.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” said John Laeder, who is building a house in Sherman Township. He said it’s “perplexing” that anyone would want to use the property for anything but farming.

He also asked the commission to remove Sherman Township from the overlay district.

The Huron Wind Energy center project includes turbines in Sand Beach Township and Delaware Township in Sanilac County.

NextEra is currently reexamining the project since Sand Beach Township, which is self zoned, recently adopted amendments to its wind ordinance placing sound restrictions on wind turbines, which NextEra officials have called “discriminatory” and “exclusionary.”

The original proposal calls for 65 turbines to be built in the four townships.

Huron Wind project manager Ryan Pumford presented the application to the commission and audience of about 75 people before the hearing.

He called the proposed overlay district “an ideal location for wind development.”

Less than 4 percent of the land is tree covered; less than 1 percent is comprised of wetlands; it’s three miles from the Lake Huron shoreline; and several miles from the nearest airport.

Ninety-five percent of the land is for agricultural use.

The proposed district complies with the Huron County Master Plan and with the Huron County Zoning Ordinance, Pumford said.