OVID TOWNSHIP – Ovid Township trustees last week became the first township in Branch County to approve an ordinance regulating wind turbine construction.
The change was part of a zoning ordinance rewrite presented by consultants MeKenna and Associates and approved by the township zoning commission.
It allows for individual land owners to have a small turbine just to serve one property and limits its height to 40 feet for less than an acre up to 120 feet for three or more acres.
There are other restrictions for “large turbine/ utility grid systems: the maximum height shall be no more than 300 feet to the tip of the rotor. The township may approve a taller turbine to “preserve stands of trees, existing land forms, or structures which would otherwise be required to be removed to satisfy anticipated and required wind velocity.”
Also, if the increased height is necessary for a reasonable rate of return for the company. It cannot in any circumstance be approved if it requires increased intensity for aircraft lighting. For the large wind turbine, lots must be no smaller than 5 acres and the structure cannot be any closer than 150 percent of the height from the property line. Ground clearance for a rotor shall be 20 feet.
Accessory structures must meet regular set back lines for the zoning district.
Ovid also restricts any electromagnetic emissions from interfering with radio, television, wireless telephone and personal communications. Noise levels are limited to 55 decibels except where the ambient levels already exceed that limit. Then the turbine levels cannot be more than 5 db higher.
The towers must be non-reflective matte finish of a single design and color. All electrical connections must be underground. The units must be secure and fluids and lubricants must be removed promptly from the sites.
The turbines must not introduce “vibrations humanly perceptible beyond the lot boundaries.”
The planning commission may require the applicant to submit studies related to noise, vibrations, environmental impact. Or similar issues considered a nuisance such as shadow flicker.
A decommissioning plan including a performance bond is required for the project. Townships have been informed they cannot ban such wind turbines but can put in place reasonable restrictions “to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents.” Such projects must also comply with other applicable state and federal regulations.
Ovid is not one of the townships in Branch County where DTE has signed leases for potential sites for 50 to 60 turbines. It is looking for approximately 40,000 acres.
Both Sherwood and Matteson Townships have zoning boards reviewing possible ordinances with reports expected back lat er this year for action then, or in early 2019.
Numbers of opponents have pushed for Union Township to enact a zoning ordinance since it has never been zoned.
Ovid Township is also considering passage of an ordinance to regulate large solar farms. The township board delayed pas sage of that provision to consider whether the maximum coverage of the property for a solar farm should be 40 percent or 50 percent of the lot, which must be a minimum five acres or more.