BAD AXE – The Huron County Planning Commission was reminded this week that it has no jurisdiction over complaints against wind developers.
County Corporation Counsel Stephen Allen noted that an hour was devoted at last month’s meeting to an issue over which the planners have no say.
“The planning commission spent an hour on something it had no jurisdiction over,” he said.
The complaint in question had been filed by Rodney McLean against Big Turtle Wind Farm Phase I earlier this year.
At the November meeting, the planners opted to postpone action until January on the sound compliance report filed by Heritage Sustainable Energy, which owns Big Turtle.
Discussion also veered into the complaint that resulted in Heritage doing its sound testing on McLean’s property.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Allen also noted that he did not attend the November meeting because it was expected to be a quick meeting.
“And here, it was two and a half hours,” Allen said. “… It didn’t turn out to be a quick meeting, and the board didn’t stick to what its function is, as a planning commission,” he added.
Allen described the formal complaint process, which was adopted by the Huron County Board of Commissioners in 2010:
• The first step is for the developer to investigate and provide a response to the complaint.
• Next, if the complainant disagrees, they can complain to the building and zoning director, who would then conduct his investigation.
• If the complainant disagrees, he or she would then appeal to the Huron County Zoning Board of Appeals.
“That doesn’t preclude a complainant from filing any action in a court of law…,” Allen said.
Despite Allen’s comments, Robert Gaffke of Bloomfield Township revisited his noise compliant against Big Turtle Phase II during public comment.
Gaffke spent several months bringing his complaint before the planners, and the parties were apparently unaware that the planners play no role in the complaint resolution process.
Also during public comment, Jerome Hessling of Sherman Township updated the planners on Sherman’s progress in establishing its own planning commission.
The commission has met twice, said Hessling, who is a member of the township board of trustees, as well as the planning commission.
Robert Tenbusch was elected chair of Sherman’s planning commission, and attended Wednesday night’s meeting.
Hessling added a member of the township planning commission would be attending all county planning commission meetings.
Sherman Township voted in August to become self-zoned, and that move will be official once the zoning ordinance has been adopted.
In other business:
• Allen notified Planner Terry Heck that the commission is not an investigative body, and cannot ask wind developers questions, especially those that may contain trade secrets. Significant time has been invested during recent meetings discussing Heck’s desire to send Sempra Renewables a list questions regarding turbine safety at the recently-constructed Apple Blossom Wind Farm.
• The planners were informed that Randy Elenbaum singed off on a February complaint regarding electrical substation noise.
• The Bylaws Committee wrapped up its review of the commission’s bylaws. The changes must be approved by two-thirds of the planning commission. The bylaws are expected to go before the entire commission for a vote in a couple of months.
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