CORUNNA – The Shiawassee County Economic and Physical Development Committee Monday unanimously advanced zoning ordinance amendments relating to height, sound and setbacks to its ordinance regulating wind turbine developments in the county, which has been a topic of controversy for the past 1 1/2 years.
The matter will be addressed at Wednesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, where, if it is approved, it will be sent to the full board Thursday for final approval.
“We’ll wait until Wednesday if we want to have that discussion,” Committee Chairman Dan McMaster said. “I want to keep it moving. I don’t want to have it stall today, and then we have issues, and we have to go out for an extension of the moratorium.”
The county is currently under a moratorium on development of wind energy projects, which blocks companies from applying for the necessary permits to build turbines. The moratorium expires this month.
Members of the public packed commissioners’ chambers in the Surbeck Building Monday, with many rehashing familiar talking points that have come up in recent months. Members of a vocal group in favor of strict regulations on turbines have frequently said proposed projects will hurt people who live near by them.
Representatives of wind energy companies, including Apex Clean Energy and Tradewind Energy, have also been frequent visitors to board meetings.
The government of Shiawassee County, as well as several townships in the county, has been at work for more than a year on amendments to the county’s ordinance regulating wind turbines. On May 8, the county planning commission advanced an amended ordinance, which must be approved by the county board of commissioners before it can go into effect.
Among the rules adopted by the planning commission:
n The acceptable noise level from a turbine was set at 45 decibels, measured from a “non-participating” property line – meaning property for which the owner has not signed an agreement with a wind energy company. The current ordinance allows 55 decibels.
n A wind turbine would have to be set back 350 percent of its height from the property line of a non-participating owner. Currently, the setback is 150 percent of the tower’s height. The earlier draft of the ordinance called for a 325-percent setback.
n Turbines would have to be designed, placed and operated in a way that does not produce “shadow flicker” on a non-participating parcel of land. The earlier draft of the ordinance allowed for up to 20 hours of shadow flicker per year. The current rule doesn’t address shadow flicker.
n A wind turbine can be no taller than 450 feet. The earlier draft of the ordinance allowed for 500-foot-tall turbines. The current ordinance allows for 600-foot turbines.
Brad Pnazek, a senior development manager for Tradewind, said Monday the rules as presented regarding height would effectively keep turbines out of Shiawassee County. He suggested the rules be amended to allow for 500-foot-tall turbines.
“The four original (wind turbine) equipment manufacturers here in the United States … there’s only one of them that is currently tooled up in their manufacturing plants to have a turbine less than 450 feet,” Pnazek said.
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