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Ford County zoning officer reverses course, issues building permits for wind farm

PAXTON – Ford County Zoning Officer Brandon Magers will issue building permits to Apex Clean Energy for 46 wind turbines in Ford County after initially indicating the plans did not meet county regulations.

The windmills will be part of the Ford County Ridge Wind Farm in Sullivant Township.

Magers had initially declined to approve the building permits to the company after it submitted applications in September.

He cited discrepancies between the original plans, which were approved in 2009, and the new ones, including larger turbines, taller towers and rotor diameters.

The Ford County Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to hear an appeal by the company March 25.

The hearing was canceled, however, after Magers opted to grant the permits.

“In reviewing the materials that Apex submitted in support of their appeal, it became clear that, due to the actions on behalf of the county over the last 12 years, it was unlikely that my initial decision would be supported at the ZBA appeal hearing, much less if challenged in court, and as such, I have a duty to the taxpayers, landowners and developers to follow the law, even when I personally take issue with the process.”

BP Wind Energy was the original developer of the project.

When the Ford County Board initially approved special-use permits for the project, it did not enact a special-use-conditions agreement, which governs the project should there be modifications between approval of the special-use permits and actual construction.

“For instance, the agreement could require a developer to begin construction within a certain period of time, use designated brand and turbine-sized units, limit the tower and tip height of the units in the project and pinpoint the location of each unit,” Magers said.

“If the developer wished to change any of those conditions following the issuance of the SUPs, they would be required to submit an amendment that would require ZBA approval.”

Magers said the board in 2009 did not enact such restrictions on SUPs issued to the original developer.

“Additionally, the current ordinance allows a developer to seek a renewal of their SUPs if the project construction is not commenced within the original three-year life of the SUP. These permits were renewed by the ZBA in 2012, 2015, and 2018,” he said.

Magers said he didn’t have any choice but to issue the permits after conferring with other county officials.