OLIVER TOWNSHIP – The Oliver Township Board of Trustees tightened up some wind energy restrictions and bucked a county trend by allowing solar development Tuesday night.
Despite public opposition and allegations of conflict of interest, the board, however, did not change the sound requirements of its ordinance, which will remain at 55 dB(A).
“We don’t want exclusionary zoning,” Supervisor Lawrence C. Krohn told the Tribune.
He said he did not want to open the township up to lawsuits by developers.
However, the township did elect to increase tower-to-home setbacks to 1,500 feet, rather than 1,320 feet.
Krohn noted that there are currently no wind developers courting landowners to build more turbines in the township.
The amendments to the zoning ordinance can be challenged by referendum if enough valid signatures are gathered in opposition of the changes.
The township zoning ordinance was also amended to allow for solar energy systems.
“Solar energy systems in Oliver Township are considered a compatible use in the agricultural preservation district,” state the changes adopted.
If the land is enrolled with the state agricultural preservation program, landowners will have to hash out with the state whether or not it’s allowed, Krohn said.
State officials have previously told the Tribune that commercial solar farms are not compatible with PA 116, the state’s farmland preservation program.
The Huron County Board of Commissioners recently adopted a moratorium on commercial solar development in county-zoned townships.
The proposed ordinance also updates Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs).
A copy of the 2017 proposed ordinance is at www.olivertwp.net/zoning. It will go into effect 15 days after publication, unless a successful petition is filed to challenge it.
Some members of the audience were disappointed that the public comment portion of the meeting was conducted after the vote on the ordinance changes.
Township resident Margo Barry said she was embarrassed to have the board as her elected officials and called the 55 dB(A) rule “irresponsible.”
She said taking the recommendation of Planning Commission Chair Brian Dickens was like “asking the fox how to protect the hen house.”
“You might as well ask the wind developers to write the ordinance,” she added, accusing township officials of having a conflict of interest.
Krohn said any conflict of interest would have been brought to light in 2006 when attorneys and the Spicer group were first consulted about wind development in the township.
“If you’re going to drag our name through the mud I’m not going to sit here and take it,” Krohn said.
In other business, the board hired a firefighter for a project to update the Oliver Township Fire Department rules, equipment and paperwork to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. The contractor will work on the project for the rest of the year at a cost of $2,000 a month.
The board approved $16,000 for the project.
And finally, Huron County Commissioner Steve Vaughan attended the meeting, and updated the board on county issues surrounding personnel and solar development.
He said there is a focus at the county level on county-zoned townships, and not all townships get equal representation.
“There are 34,000 people in this county. All of them need a fair shake,” Vaughan said, noting that all townships support the county tax-wise.