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Commissioners deny moratorium request

BAD AXE – A majority of county commissioners rejected a request Tuesday to extend Huron County’s wind energy moratorium for one year.

Prior to taking a vote, Sami Khoury, chairman of the board of commissioners, asked Robert McLean, chairman of the Huron County Planning Commission, for an update on recent activity.

McLean told commissioners they need to work together with planners. At the commissioners’ request last year, McLean said planners stopped working on wind and focused on solar.

“… Anybody that says anything different is flat out wrong,” he said, adding planners recently finished reviewing the Huron County Master Plan.

McLean asked commissioners to approve a resolution for a one-year extension of the moratorium to work on Huron County’s wind energy ordinance.

The moratorium went into effect March 1, 2018, and was set to stay in effect for one year or until the point that the master plan is updated to address wind energy systems – whichever came first.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard from planning Vice Chairman Carl Duda, and area residents Robert Gaffke, Sally Kain, Rita Parsch, Daniel Volmering and Richard Stein.

One-by-one, they spoke highly of the work that the planning commission has been doing as of recently, and urged commissioners to approve the extension request.

In a 4 to 2 vote, the board of commissioners turned down the resolution, with Commissioners Michael Meissner and Khoury in support. Commissioners Steve Vaughan, Mary Ellen Babcock, Todd Talaski and John Bodis voted against the resolution.

Commissioner Ron Wruble was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Residents and other county officials expressed their disappointment.

Planner Bob Tenbusch said the planning commission obeyed the board’s orders and stopped working on wind to focus on solar.

“Even at that time, we mentioned to you to be prepared to extend this, because if we can’t get all this done – master plan, solar and wind, we may ask for an extension, and that’s exactly what happened,” Tenbusch said.

He told the board turning down the request was going against public opinion and results from a 2017 election.

During the final board comment, Vaughan was confidant planners could finish the job without an extension.

“Every comment that we’ve heard stated that you folks on the planning commission are doing an excellent job, correct?” Vaughn asked. “And everything was going very, very well … so, therefore one of the things I interpret is you’re doing a great job and you’re doing to get it done.”

“ … Just keep moving it forward and get it done,” he added. “I don’t think a moratorium gives you any power. If anything, it might make you think, ‘Well, we’ve got more time.’”

The moratorium expires March 1.