BAD AXE – The Huron County Board of Commissioners has instructed county planners to focus on a solar energy ordinance before making any revisions to the wind energy ordinance.
The board passed the motion unanimously with no discussion Tuesday.
Officers of the Huron County Planning Commission had attended last week’s board of commissioners meeting to discuss progress on the development of a solar energy ordinance – or lack thereof.
A planning commission committee has been meeting for a few months to discuss revamping the county’s 2015 wind ordinance, which has never been tested by the construction of a wind turbine/new development.
Meanwhile, the county has moratoriums on both wind and solar energy.
On Wednesday afternoon, planning commission Chairman Robert McLean told the Tribune that the wind committee was still expected to meet that evening.
The words he described himself as upon hearing of the board of commissioner’s motion included “dumbfounded, curious, puzzled and disappointed.”
“I thought we were all on the same page, and everyone was happy,” McLean said. “We are not ignoring this topic.”
He noted the planners have been given several solar ordinances to review in preparation for writing the ordinance.
“I didn’t create this committee, I inherited it,” he added.
Former planner Chairman Bernie Creguer appointed the committee before McLean was voted in as chair in April.
McLean also noted that the wind moratorium is older than the solar moratorium, and says he thought it should be addressed first for that reason.
He did not know about the fate of the wind ordinance committee, given the board of commissioners’ action this week.
“Until I receive the directive and have a chance to think it over, I’m not going to make any decisions one way or another,” McLean said.
The wind moratorium went into effect March 1. It will go on for one year, or until the point when the Huron County Master Plan is updated to address wind energy systems – whichever comes first.
The wind moratorium is also in effect for the amount of time it takes for Lincoln and Sherman Townships to adopt their own zoning ordinances. The motion was amended at the planning commission level to contain language indicating that any potential revisions to the county’s wind ordinance must be completed as well.
County Corporate Counsel Stephen Allen told the Tribune if all of that business is complete in less than a year, the moratorium could end sooner than a year.
The board of commissioners adopted the year-long moratorium on solar development in May. A year-long moratorium had been in effect prior to that. The current moratorium bans commercial solar development for a year, or until the county adopts an ordinance governing such development – whichever happens first.
The planners have addressed solar energy development while working on the Huron County Master Plan for several months.
McLean likened the situation to building a home’s foundation before picking out the shutters.
He noted the master plan hasn’t been updated for some 20 years.
“This is a very important document and that is your road map to the future,” he said.
The master plan provides general zoning guidance. But the planners have gotten as specific as trying to designate setbacks from solar farms to the shoreline, to neighboring properties and to towns or cities.
McLean said the product of the master plan discussion could be applied to the ordinance as well.
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