SHERWOOD TOWNSHIP – After 22 months of work, the Sherwood Township Planning Commission has recommend the first Wind Turbine control ordinance to its township board.
After an 8-0 vote, it will go to the township for its Nov. 4 meeting. The detailed ordinance will need a few minor amendments but is essentially the draft put together by Chris Khorey of consultants McKenna and Associates.
While it has the support of Concerned Citizens of Branch County, DTE Energy presented an analysis to the commission in opposition.
Signed by Matthew Wagner, manager for Renewal Energy Development for the largest power provider on the east side of the state, it hinted at litigation following final approval.
“Unfortunately, the zoning regulations being considered by the Planning Commission are not based on engineering science and peer-reviewed studies, and are likely to have the effect of making utility-scale wind energy development impossible in Sherwood Township notwithstanding the state’s renewable energy policies and Michigan Zoning Enabling Act’s prohibition of exclusionary zoning practices. ” according to the statement.
DTE has signed leases for large commercial wind turbines in Sherwood, Union, Matteson, and Batavia Townships.
The statement continued, “The proposed regulations deviate greatly from the siting guidelines and sample zoning regulations published by the state of Michigan and MSU Extension Service and those ordinances in effect in communities with operating wind parks.”
John Sacola, a retired 41-year employee of DTE, spoke against the limitations on commercial turbines. He cited the need for clean renewable energy.
“It might not look good, but what will it don for the environment,” he said. He called for leaving a green “legacy for our kids.”
DTE currently operates 14 wind parks in Michigan. DTE and Consumers Energy have committed to increasing renewable energy sources to 25% of their portfolios by 2030.
Wagner wrote, “Meeting these goals will require energy companies, developers, and communities to work together to develop zoning regulations that are evidence-based and do not unnecessarily infringe on private property rights.”
Alan Jacobson said he has seen what winds farms do to migration of birds, the hunting and fishing in areas where they are built.
Anna Keim said turbines “are not a black and white issue, renewable verus non-renewable. We are here to talk about the health, safety, and welfare of the community.”
Eric Robinson told the board he expected the commission to find a compromise.
“This is a ban on all turbines,” he said.
He said the 330 foot height limit lower than the FAA requires makes it impractical for the turbines.
For setbacks, “I don’t think they are supportable or rational,” he added.
Attorney Joshua Nolan, hired by Concerned Citizens, said the law was defensible and not arbitrary or capricious. He is already opposing other ordinances for wind turbines in the state. He asked for a lower night time noise limit as well as a provision to require all permits before any construction begins.
McKenna and Associates also are assisting Matteson Township in writing its wind turbine ordinance. It began its work Wednesday night. Batavia also plans to consult the firm as it works on a similar ordinance.
The ordinance restrictions laid over township maps shows areas available for wind turbines, about one-third of the area, but it does not take into account individual setbacks from residents and non-participating owners, which further limits sites.
Special use permits are required for single home or business turbines whose height is limited to 85 feet with fewer restrictions.