BAD AXE – It is now questionable whether Huron County will spend $24,500 on noise testing of wind turbines in answer to complaints.
A turbine noise complainant announced at Tuesday’s Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting he would not participate in a noise test proposed by county officials.
The board later delayed vote to fund the test by ABD Engineering & Design.
Some commissioners said without landowner approval of the test, the county should not pay for it.
Early in the meeting, Commissioner Todd Talaski asked that resolution approving of paying ABD for the study be moved from the consent agenda to new business, so that it could be discussed.
Public comment followed soon after the agenda was changed, during which complainant Robert Gaffke stated authorizing the test by ABD would be “fiscally irresponsible and morally and ethically wrong.”
“I will have no part in another improperly done test,” Gaffke said. “You have no idea how to do a proper test for a nuisance complaint …”
He criticized the board for not gathering more than one bid for the test.
Four other county residents followed Gaffke’s statements, speaking in support of that notion, and criticizing other decisions by county officials.
During discussion of the resolution to hire ABD, Talaski stated: “If we pass this … as is, I don’t know that we’re getting anywhere.”
Huron County Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith told the board Dale Hass, another complainant, has not returned phone calls or emails seeking approval to test on his property.
“If you can’t contact them, why should we pay for the test?” asked Sami Khoury, board chairman. “… If they’re not agreeable, why should we pay for the test?”
He suggested they only pay for the test at the residence of the third complainant, Rodney McLean, who told Smith he would allow it.
Talaski suggested the board vote on the resolution after making it contingent that property owners must allow the testing in writing.
Khoury asked county Corporate Counsel Stephen Allen what the board’s recourse would be if it refused testing based on property owners not allowing it.
“Are we basically done with these individuals?” Khoury asked.
“It’s my opinion that you were done with the individuals long before you got (to this point),” Allen answered. “I thought that the board went above and beyond to conduct this testing.
“I think Commissioner Talaski has a valid point. It costs so much money for that company (ABD) to come over here regardless of how many people are going to test,” he added. “It will make a difference, though, with how many people they test. The proposal for ABD should be per test site …The complaint resolution is set forth in our ordinance, and it should be followed by the complainants.”
Commissioner Ron Wruble asked if the board could table the resolution until the next meeting, and have Smith contact the parties to get written permission for the test on their property.
Allen suggested Smith contact ABD so they could consider the cost of one, two or three tests.
After Commissioner Steve Vaughan made a motion to suspend discussion on the resolution, Commissioner John L. Bodis said he had a question for Allen.
“Are we setting a precedent by doing this?” Bodis asked.
“It’s going to be used against the board in the future with respect to this,” Allen answered. “… This is going to be phenomenally expensive, from my perspective, to pursue a complaint against a developer, if these are the types of fees we’re going to have to pay to enforce a noise complaint.”
Regarding doing tests on neighboring property if the owner does not consent, Allen said the following:
“It leaves a large loop hole for a defense lawyer to come in and attack because we didn’t have a valid test from the location from where the complainant was making his complaint from.”
Smith added the ordinance requires testing at the dwelling. “If we don’t follow our own ordinance, what precedent are we setting in that regard?” he asked.
Vaughan again motioned to suspend discussion “until we get our ducks in a row.”
The board approved the motion unanimously.
During final public comment, Gaffke had his say again, and his points included the following:
• He feels Heritage Sustainable Energy, which owns the wind development near his property, has never proven compliance with the county’s wind ordinance. “I think you guys are in a lot of trouble over that,” Gaffke said.
• He also urged the board not to listen to Allen or Smith.
• He said he’s been willing to cooperate, “but you have to have to test under the right conditions.”
“I’m not mad at you guys,” he told the board. “I’m just disappointed in the complaint process. It’s a useless piece of paper. The wind developers have been caught red handed and nothing’s been done.”
Richard Krohn of Oliver Township spoke next.
He said while there are three complaints in county-zone townships, others exist – including his own – in self-zoned townships.
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