BAD AXE – After being on the agenda for months, it appears that a local farmer will no longer be taking his 2016 complaint against Heritage Sustainable Energy before the Huron County Planning Commission.
“We don’t have the authority to do anything at the planning commission … with respect to the complaint resolution,” said Steve Allen, Huron County Corporate Counsel, at last week’s planning commission meeting.
Robert Gaffke, a Bloomfield Township farmer, filed a complaint last fall regarding noise from a turbine in the Big Turtle II Wind Farm near his property.
Gaffke says noise from a turbine thousands of feet from his home is a nuisance.
He has been publicly debating with Heritage and discussing the issue with county officials since he filed the complaint Oct. 14.
Computerized sound modeling has shown that the noise is not loud enough to be in violation of the county’s wind energy ordinance, Heritage officials have said at previous planning commission meetings.
Allen told the Tribune that according to an attachment to Heritage’s investigation, the closest turbine to the Gaffke residence is 3,500 feet away.
According to the county’s ordinance, Allen said, sound at the residence of a nonparticipating landowner must not exceed 45 dB(a).
Heritage’s sound testing showed that the sound was 38 dB(a), Allen said.
Heritage decided in November that the company was in compliance with the ordinance.
Gaffke’s next step, Allen said, is to notify the Huron County Building and Zoning Department that he does not agree with Heritage’s decision, or that the problem still persists. The building and zoning office would have 21 days to respond, and 30 days to complete an investigation, Allen added.
If Gaffke is not happy with the investigation, he can apply to the Huron County Zoning Board of Appeals.
Gaffke is also free to file suit against Heritage at any time, Allen noted.
Heritage had contracted with Epsilon Associates to conduct noise testing, both for the complaint, and for the post construction sound study required by the county.
Gaffke has previously said that it’s not fair that the developer can choose the company that does the testing. He refused to grant Epsilon access to his property earlier this year.
Allen said that Heritage would have allowed a sound expert of Gaffke’s choice to be present during testing.
Gaffke has also accused the company of bribery by seeking to establish a lease with him.
Allen said that he mistakenly thought that Heritage’s offer to do the post construction sound study at the Gaffke farm was part of its initial investigation.
However, Heritage offered to do so after its first investigation was complete.
When Jeff Smith, building and zoning administrator, asked Allen recently how long the planners would have to keep the issue on their agenda, Allen revisited the matter, and found that the planning commission has no current jurisdiction over the matter.
So the next step is for Gaffke to notify the building and zoning office if he disagrees with Heritage’s decision that the sound requirements of the ordinance have been met.
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