BAD AXE – After much discussion and multiple votes, the Huron County Planning Commission has decided not to send letters to wind developers protesting the term “wind park.”
County Corporation Counsel Stephen Allen noted that DTE Energy’s Thumb Wind Parks is a project name used by the company, and the planning commission is not entitled change that.
At last month’s meeting, the planners unanimously voted to send the letter.
Charles Bumhoffer, who ended up resigning at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, made a motion at the January meeting to send the letter, and to have the phrase “wind park” replaced with “wind energy conversion facility.”
He also suggested sending letters to any wind developer who used the term “wind park” encouraging them to change the way they refer to the facilities.
Bumhoffer made the point that the word “park” is associated with playgrounds and recreational facilities.
Allen, however, advised county Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith not to send any such letters and offered the planners a chance to revisit the decision Wednesday night.
Planner Robert Oakes motioned that the vote to send such letters be rescinded.
A voice vote appeared to pass the motion.
The roll call vote that followed failed 3-4.
Supporting the motion were Chairman Bernie Creguer, Jeffery Krohn and Oakes. Carl Duda, Robert McLean, Ken Walker and Bumhoffer voted no.
McLean said Bumhoffer should be given time to research the issue and consult with Spicer Group.
Smith noted that in the case of industrial parks, “park” is defined as an area zoned for a specific purpose.
“It’s kind of petty to worry about the work ‘park’ when it can mean many things,” Smith said.
Oakes said he had received a lot of negative feedback about the planners disputing the term.
“We shouldn’t be wasting out time on semantics,” he said.
“I think we’re spending too much time doing stuff that we’re not supposed to be,” Creguer said. “That ties in to a degree of why we’re getting complaints that our work isn’t getting done around here.”
Smith added that it’s not right to spend taxpayer money consulting on such an issue.
“I think we need to make a decision at this board level,” he said. “I know that the decision was for me to send the letter. But I’m uncomfortable when our own ordinance and our own master plan references ‘park.’”
Oakes said Allen and Smith advising against protesting the word constituted expert advice, and that the planners should not go against it.
“If you sent the letter out, we can get in some legal trouble with that, and that’s really not what we’re here for,” Oakes said.
He then moved that the planners reconsider the move.
Walker seconded it.
More discussion took place before it was voted on again.
“What we’re really doing is counting the number of angels on the head of a pin,” Oakes said. “We need to get off of that and get on with what we’re doing …”
“People are kind of snickering at us, and you’re right, we are using the taxpayers’ money, and that’s part of the dysfunction we have on this committee … There’s no reason to give stress to Jeff and also to Steve Allen …”
He restated his motion to rescind.
“In all aspects of planning and zoning, words have strong meanings … Our ordinance references ‘wind energy conversion systems.’ We did not intend to dictate to DTE what they may or may not call their project.
“All that was asked for in Charles’ motion was correspondence about these projects to Huron County (referencing) wind energy conversion facility, not a wind park.
“And this is part of the problem, I think. We discussed. It was voted upon. We should have been moving on and go back and revisit it another day, but then we do things like this where is just keeps going around the table.
“We discussed it once. We voted on it. We need to move on.”
Oakes agreed that words mean something, and said that “the word is getting out that we’re anti-business.”
“And if we’re anti-business, that hurts us economically …”
He called for the vote again.
Walker said he thought it had gone on too long, and that he wanted to change his vote, “so let’s vote.”
Creguer interpreted that as support for the motion, and the vote was taken.
Bumhoffer cast the first vote in support of rescinding the motion.
McLean changed his vote to support Bumhoffer, and Duda also changed his vote.
The vote was unanimous to rescind the motion to send the letter.
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