Esky creating wind turbine rules

ESCANABA — Residents will be able to weigh in on the future of renewable energy in Escanaba Thursday during a public hearing on a proposed wind turbine energy ordinance at the city’s regular planning commission meeting.

“It’s understanding what Garden and Fairbanks township have been through and what the county has been through and trying to get ahead of the game. There’s nothing imminent. We haven’t had any wind turbine folks approach the city — at least not that I’m aware of,” said Kel Smyth, who chairs the planning commission.

The wind turbines in Garden and Fairbanks townships have been a point of contention for residents of those communities since the Garden Wind Farm first became operational in September of 2012. These issues prompted multiple recalls of township officials, as well as a lawsuit, and Delta County to develop its own wind turbine ordinance.

Garden Township’s own wind farm ordinance was pushed through relatively quickly in order to regulate the new energy development. According to Smyth, Escanaba’s proposed ordinance is the result of a months-long discussion on how to best regulate wind farms should one wish to locate in the city in the future.

“The member of our planning commission that is also on the county planning commission (Christine Williams) looked at a number of different ordinances and drafted this one for us,” he said.

Under the proposed ordinance, wind energy systems could not generate more than 50 decibels of noise, measured at the property line, for more than three minutes in any hour of the day. Turbines must also be spaced two turbine heights apart, cannot be lighted — except for plane detecting, by radar activated lights if required by the Federal Aviation Administration — and cannot be painted any color other than gray, beige, or white.

The ordinance lays out the minimum parcel sizes and setbacks for different types of wind-power generating devices ranging from large-scale operations to small, roof-installed residential windmills. It also contains rules on how complaints about these devices would be resolved and requires decommissioning plans be submitted for all wind energy devices prior to their installation to ensure these devices don’t become a public nuisance after they have outlived their lifespan.

The public hearing on the proposed ordinance will be held during the planning commission meeting scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Escanaba City Hall council chambers.

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