BAD AXE – During this week’s Huron County Board of Commissioners meeting, Huron County Corporate Counsel Steve Allen spoke about a legal opinion related to the county’s long in-development master plan.
The opinion, provided by Detroit-based Clark Hill PLC, had to deal with bringing re-powered wind turbines up to the standards of Huron County’s Wind Energy Facility Overlay Ordinance, which was revised in 2015.
An opinion from Clark Hill was ordered last September after Commissioner John Bodis reviewed a draft of the master plan. The firm was picked because they have a long history of redevelopment work and dealing with non-conforming uses and county bodies have used Clark Hill before.
The 48-page opinion was supposed to be delivered in April, along with 100 pages of exhibits, but Allen finally received them on June 28.
The revised 2015 wind energy ordinance say each wind turbine shall be set back from the nearest inhabited structure no less than 1,320 feet for participating parcels, and 1,640 feet for non-participating parcels.
Turbines also have to be no less than 500 feet away from public roads and electrical lines, three miles from the high water mark of the Lake Huron/Saginaw Bay shoreline, and a separation between the towers of no less than three times the rotor diameter.
Turbines that were built under the 2010 zoning ordinance that did not meet those standards were turned off.
“I could see a train wreck coming telling turbine owners they have to move them,” Allen said. “It would destroy the use of turbines not in compliance.”
Allen said he has sat in on meetings of various boards of commissioners and wind energy developers over 10 years and not once did he hear any developers bring up non-conforming uses.
“The consensus of the people was that the turbines would go on for years to come without any thought about non-conforming uses,” Allen said.
Richard Sundquist, the lead Clark Hill attorney of the hired team, gave the opinion that modifications needed to be made to the 2015 ordinance, as it does not permit full re-powering, and cautioned the Huron County leaders about having the state government pre-empting the local government from having input on wind energy.
Both the board of commissioners and planning commission had previous closed session meetings where they could read the opinion.
Copies of the opinion will be provided to Spicer Group, who is helping the county draft its master plan.
Commission Chairman Sami Khoury said the full opinion would be on the county’s website sometime next week, which Allen, as the county’s Freedom of Information Act administrator, appreciated.
In other news:
• Commissioners made four appointments for the Huron County Land Bank Authority Board. The appointments made were of William Renn and Marshall Sheldon for one-year-terms, and Kathleen Patricka and Mary Babcock for two-year terms.
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