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Matteson passes wind turbine control law

With no public comments Wednesday night, the Matteson Township board unanimously passed a planning ordinance amendment to regulate wind turbines.

The large crowd of those who supported the law gave both the township and planning boards an ovation.

Matteson becomes the second, after Sherwood Township, to enact a wind turbine law which requires special use permits, in the four township area targeted by DTE for a major wind farm.

Union Township has no zoning. Batavia Township declared a moratorium until June and hopes to have an ordinance in place by then.

The law goes into effect March 12 unless a notice of intent is filed with the township that the ordinance will be challenged. Then there is a 30-day window to collect signatures of 15 percent of voters who cast ballots in the gubernatorial race in the last general election of 2018. That would be 79 voters.

If verified, the law would go on the August ballot for a “yes” or “no” vote, but could not go into effect until after the election. A verified petition was filed in Sherwood.

Pam Reed, from Concerned Citizens of Branch County, said to DTE, “Go ahead and bring your referendum. We will defeat it.”

She noted, unlike Sherwood and Union townships, no one sat on the planning commission or township boards who had signed leases with DTE.

“Thank you for sticking with us these last 26 painful months” it took to adopt the law, Reed said.

Supervisor David Johnson said of the planning commission, called back for a special hearing last week on the final draft, “you did an awesome job. Our main goal was to protect the health safety and welfare of our community.”

Trustee Kevin Barnes, who served on the planning commission, pointed out there had not been anyone supporting wind turbines at meetings, except DTE.

Now the commission will turn its attention to updating the current ordinances. It will also tackle solar farm zoning.

DTE filed written objections that the 328-foot height limit as measured from the tip of the vertical blade prevents the turbine from reaching wind resources. It said 500 feet is more typical in the state.

The written presentation filed with the planning commission also claimed the regulations for setbacks made it impossible to site any wind turbines on the almost half of the township under a lease.

DTE said the $2 million per unit liability and $1 million cash deposit to secure decommissioning were excessive.

The township added other costs Wednesday night passing a new fee schedule for zoning applications. It adopted a $300 fee for a petition to challenge a zoning decision. It will also access a $300 fee for each site plan review hearing, necessary to obtain a special use permit for a turbine. There is also a $300 fee for special meetings of the planning commission.