OLIVER TOWNSHIP – Residents of Oliver Township will have a say May 8 about whether changes to the township zoning ordinance passed last year will go into effect.
Residents who oppose the revisions say the changes address some aspects of wind development insufficiently, and fail to address others.
“They didn’t change (regulations) enough to really help the people who live here,” said township resident Richard Krohn, who sought signatures to get the measure on the ballot. “Because there’s nothing really stopping (developers) to come back and stick turbines in between the ones we’ve already got.”
There were 75 residents who signed the petition calling for the ballot language, which states: “Shall the amendments to the Oliver Township Zoning Ordinance adopted by the Township Board on June 6, 2017, be approved?”
Krohn said those who vote “no” would be supporting the notion that the township needs to revisit its ordinance. A “yes” vote would put the changes into effect.
“They’ve got to make changes in the ordinance to make it safer for the people. That’s the nuts and bolts of it,” he said.
In the 2017 ordinance, wind turbine tower-to-home setbacks were increased from 1,320 feet to 1,500 feet. But that’s not enough, according to Krohn.
He noted that the World Health Organization and American Health Organization recommend a 2,500-foot setback.
“The county even went to 1,640,” he said, referring to changes Huron County made in 2015.
Those against the township’s ordinance changes also say sound limits should be decreased.
The township board did not change the ordinance’s noise limits, which remain 55 db(A).
“It’s way too high,” Krohn said, adding the American and world health organizations recommend 35 db (A).
Another problem Krohn has with the ordinance is that there is no size limit for turbines.
He also objects to ordinance changes removing the “good neighbor rule.”
That required a lease-holding landowner to notify another lease-holding landowner to if, for example, the landowner wants to place a turbine on a neighbor’s fencerow.
Lawrence C. Krohn is the township supervisor, and a distant cousin of Richard Krohn.
Lawrence C. Krohn said several residents who are now against removal of the good neighbor rule had problems with it before it was removed.
If both property owners have wind contracts, he said, there is no need to notify each other that they are placing turbines near fencerows or property lines.
Lawrence C. Krohn said he would approve revisiting the ordinance changes “if there’s an overwhelming vote” against them.
But he added he could not speak for the members of the Oliver Township Planning Commission or the remaining members of the Oliver Township Board of Trustees.
He noted that if the changes are rejected at the polls, the setback for wind turbines would remain at 1,320 feet. The 2009 ordinance, which call for the 1,320 setback, remains in effect until the vote is decided.
Lawrence C. Krohn said the township does not want to open itself up to lawsuits by commercial wind developers by allowing exclusionary zoning.
“Nobody wants to be sued,” he said.
Other changes in the 2009 ordinance included allowing solar energy systems, and updates to the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPS).
Both the 2009 and 2017 ordinances can be found online at www.olivertwp.net/zoning.
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