BAD AXE – The Huron County Planning Commission expects to review a full draft of the Huron County Master Plan at the next master plan workshop.
The draft will include policy statements on wind and solar energy development – drafts of which were presented to the Huron County Planning Commission Wednesday.
Alan Bean of the Spicer Group read the drafts to the planners, which included statements on repowering and decommissioning wind turbines.
When a turbine is decommissioned, it would be removed once it stops producing electrical power.
New permits would be needed in order for a turbine to be repowered.
A turbine’s life expectancy is about 20 years.
Planner Bernie Creguer made the point that if the wind developer and landowner decide to try to get another 20 years out of a wind turbine when the lease is over, the planning commission would have no say over that.
The capacity of early turbines built in Huron County was 1.5 megawatts. The most recent turbines built produce 3.45 megawatts of electricity.
The statement on commercial solar energy development was tweaked. Solar development will be permitted by special use permit in any district excluding residential. That would include agricultural, business and industrial-zoned property.
Such development would not be allowed on PA 116 property – that which is enrolled in the state’s farmland preservation program.
Planner George Lauinger said it’s important to note in the master plan that private residents are allowed to have solar or wind energy installments for personal electricity use.
“It’s important that this document not scare people off from doing that,” Lauinger said.
Setbacks for solar farms came up again.
Bean wrote in the statement that there would be a half-mile setback from the shore to any solar farm.
Planner Terry Heck challenged that, saying a mile setback would be better.
Bean had previously polled the planners on the ideal shoreline setback.
Most planners advocated for a mile or half-mile setback, and the average of stated distances was roughly ¾ mile.
Planners also discussed whether half-mile setbacks were feasible in other instances, such as those from solar farms to non-county-zoned townships that may have solar farms.
In other solar ordinances the planners have studied, setbacks from solar farms to nonparticipating landowners’ property lines are as little as 51 feet, said Planner Robert Tenbusch.
Smith commented on state regulations for special use permit projects.
“The state says, for special use permits, you take consideration of those properties within 300 feet,” Smith said. “That’s the law. And here we have half-mile setbacks … So how do you defend a half-mile, or even a quarter-mile setback …?”
No final decision was made on when the next master plan meeting will take place, but planners discussed reconvening Aug. 22. Bean plans to email copies of the master plan draft to planners before the next master plan meeting.
Planners began the master plan process about two years ago by composing a survey for county residents. This is the first time in more than 20 years that master plan has been updated.
In other business, the makeup of the Huron County Planning Commission’s solar energy ordinance committee will be determined at the planner’s July 11 meeting.
Despite a directive from the Huron County Board of Commissioners this week for planners to focus on a solar ordinance rather than revising the wind ordinance, the wind committee met Wednesday evening prior to the master plan workshop.
When Sami Khoury, chairman of the board of commissioners, addressed the planners during public comment of the master plan workshop, he encouraged the planners to change the wind committee into a solar committee.
“This way, we can accommodate for the farmers that can put in solar farms,” Khoury said. “And then after you get your solar ordinance, we can switch it back to the wind committee.”
Khoury is a liaison between the board of commissioners and the planners.
Later, Tenbusch advocated for having two committees – one for solar and one for wind.
Khoury responded that the commissioners want the planners to focus on solar.
Planner Chairman Robert McLean said the solar committee would be established at the July meeting.
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