SHERWOOD TOWNSHIP – The Sherwood Township Planning Commission continues to try to craft an ordinance to regulate wind turbines in the township with DTE signing leases in the area.
A sticking point is how far to set a required setback after considering a quarter mile or 1,320 feet from property lines. It was pointed out that a half square mile piece of property, 320 acres would not be usable for a turbine.There are few parcels large enough to qualify.
That did not bother those opposed to wind turbines, but brought a warning from township attorney Catherine Kaufman, who sat in on the meeting.
“If you adopt an ordinance that is essentially a sham because nobody could build, then there could be a legal challenge. The point being your ordinance has to be reasonable. There is an exclusionary provision of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act that says every lawful use has to be allowed,” Kaufman The state legislature has mandated that utilities must have a minimum renewable source of energy. DTE has set a goal of 30 percent by 2030 which would give them an argument it is to be allowed in any township.
“If you decide to adopt an ordinance where by setbacks nobody could ever go anywhere, I think it will be legally hard to defend,” Kaufman told the Planning Commission.
Members of the commission will try to see, using the county GIS, what property might be useable with a 1,320 foot setback and what would not.
Kaufman gave them a list of possible issues to consider for setbacks.
“What are they based on? How did we come up with this. Is it because the noise travels that far? Is it because of the visual appearance? Should it be from houses or property lines?”
The commission had decided not to use participating and non-participating parcels to define those who have leased property and those who have not. All setbacks would be from individual property lines. The attorney said this might be a bad idea since DTE would not be able to package parcels to site a turbine.
A suggestion was made to allow neighboring parcel owners to sign an agreement to put turbines on property lines between them. This would protect farmland irrigation pivots at parcel centers.
Kaufman warned against such private agreements for siting turbines because it would open the door for land owners to sign agreements to ignore zoning setback lines for other buildings.
The commission did come to an agreement to limit the noise to 38 to 40 decibels measured at property lines in residential areas.
It also agreed to limit the height of a turbine, to the tip of the blade, to 300 feet but would provide the commission or Zoning Board of Appeals to allow for a variance up to 400 feet if the topography made it necessary or to prevent the cutting of surrounding trees.
Blades would need to clear the ground by 40 feet. For small home or farm turbines the clearance would be 12 feet 8 inches.
All connecting power lines would need to be a minimum five feet underground.
Access doors to large turbines must be locked and secure. Safety manuals would need to be available locally on large turbines, not for home turbines.
The ordinance would require radar controlled lighting for aircraft warning lights which go on only when aircraft approach the area.
The commission was looking at trying to protect the two rivers, seven lakes and swamp land in the township most of which is in the west and northern quadrants of the township.
Paul Funk, Specialist-Engineer with DTE, told the commission as the meeting began there is already a wetland buffers diagonally from the southwest to northeast in the township.
He said, “What that leaves, using citing recommended by the state is this area” is the southeast quadrant, along with a couple section in the northwest.
Besides the southwest quadrant, DTE is looking “to work with some of the section of Union (Township), just the very north corner of Matteson (Township) and potentially just the very corner of Batavia (Township). That is our interest right now,” Funk said.
The company is leasing for sites, only parcels in excess of 20 acres. For others in the selected areas DTE is offering “easement agreements” for those residences on less than 20 acres “because we know they will have to see them, smell them, taste them. We recognize everybody should get some financial benefit,”he added.
The Sherwood Planning Commission will come back again Oct. 9 after a nearly three hour meeting Sept.11.