BURNSIDE TWP. – A Burnside property owner has requested a public hearing on proposed amendments to the township’s zoning ordinance with regard to wind energy developments, pushing back a vote to at least Jan. 22.
The township board was set to vote on proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance at its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
The proposed amendments are the result of months of work put in by the township planning commission – including two public hearings already held – and final tweaks suggested by the board of trustees at its November meeting.
Tim Denney, township attorney, said per state law the township board is not required to have a public hearing before it takes action on such recommendations – unless “one interested party in the township formally demands a public hearing.”
The township received one such request late last week, he said.
Because the request was not received in time to be properly published before Monday’s meeting, Denney said, the public hearing will be set for Jan. 22, when the board next meets. A vote could follow the public hearing, he said.
Still, Bonnie Koning, clerk of Burnside Township, said she expects the topic of wind turbines will be talked about Monday (Dec. 18) in light of the high level of interest in northern Lapeer County.
She noted the importance of taking into consideration as much input and information as possible.
“That’s democracy and that’s totally fine,” Koning told The County Press. “We want everybody to be aware and have as much information as possible. It’s important.”
“It will be a chance for people to come and talk about it some more,” she added.
Burnside is one of three townships in north and northeast Lapeer County where DTE Energy has confirmed securing land for a for a possible wind energy development.The other two are Burlington and North Branch townships, where officials have enacted moratoriums to allow for more time to develop up-to-date zoning ordinances pertaining to wind.
Burnside Township is closest to having an updated ordinance in place.
However, DTE officials have expressed concern over some of the recommended amendments.
DTE Regional Manager Carla Gribbs addressed the concerns during the Burnside Township board’s November meeting.
“The planning commission recommendation that you’ll be considering tonight … does not consider the exclusionary nature of the zoning ordinance,” Gribbs told the board.
She urged the board “to take the time that is necessary to reexamine the zoning language you’ve been presented with so that you can create a balanced ordinance.”
After the November meeting, Cindy Hecht, a spokesperson for DTE, provided The County Press with a prepared statement.
“It’s very important to strike a balance between community interests and private property rights,” she said. “There are zoning guidelines established by the State of Michigan as far back as 2008 to help local governments develop zoning regulations for wind energy that would protect public health, safety, and welfare without them being completely restrictive or exclusionary.”
The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act prohibits exclusionary zoning, which prevents regulation from being established that eliminates a land use “in the presence of a demonstrated need for that land use.”
As The County Press first reported Dec. 10, DTE’s comments about “exclusionary zoning” prompted the Blissfield-based Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition Inc. to file a complaint with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on behalf of a North Branch Township resident.
The complaint “requests that the MPSC order DTE Energy and its agents to cease and desist from making fraudulent claims of ‘exclusionary zoning’ anywhere in the state of Michigan.”
Hecht said the claims made in the complaint are false and that “the author of the letter is the leader of a wind opposition group.”
The Burnside Township board meets Monday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. The following board meeting will be Monday, Jan. 22 at 7 p.m.
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