PI County imposes restrictions as wind turbines proposed

ROGERS CITY — The Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved ordinance changes to place limits on proposed wind turbines.

A public hearing was held Sep. 20 to discuss the potential installation of wind turbines in Moltke Township. The meeting prompted the county’s Planning Commission to review the zoning ordinance for the area. It was discussed at the last county board meeting, but commissioners decided to wait to make any decisions until they could further review it.

They approved ordinance changes on Wednesday.

Planning Commissioner Michael Libby was present at the meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the changes made to the ordinance in response to potential wind turbines.

“With the activity that has started in the county, the Planning Commission decided to review and update it,” Libby said.

With help from Denise Cline from the Northeast Michigan Council on Governments, Libby said the county drafted updates that included definitions about turbines, exact zoning districts, setbacks, noise levels, potential abandonment of the turbine, and a variety of other zoning issues relating to installation of the turbines.

“What they’re doing is modifying our ordinance,” Chairman Carl Altman said, “and I can’t think that is a bad thing … I mean, to leave it the way it was was pretty general, and they could probably be able to come in and do anything they wanted. So this does offer some restrictions.”

However, the issue remains a major concern for Stefani and Mike Schulte, who live in Moltke Township. They said they were not included in any of the discussions about the wind turbines that would potentially be installed on neighboring property. Their biggest concern was that the utilities easement — land to which the turbine operators would be given access — goes through the middle of their farm, leaving them uncertain about the fate of their property and the cattle they graze on the land.

“My land will be destroyed,” Stefani Schulte said. “I will have massive power cables buried in that utilities easement.”

With the new provisions, Libby said wind turbines would require special permits.

“Each one would require a special-use permit from the Planning Commission, which requires a public hearing and a site plan,” Libby said.

He also said the Planning Commission can apply different standards to different locations.

“There are pros and cons to things,” Altman said. “The U.S. government just made provisions where you have to have a certain percentage of renewable energy by certain dates. So, what happens is, yes, that is a good thing, but no, we don’t want it in our yard.”

‘TERRORIZING THE PEOPLE’

In addition to the wind turbine ordinance, Moltke Township residents packed the meeting on Wednesday to voice complaints about a resident who has been setting off explosions and shooting guns during an annual weekend celebration, which people claimed has been taking place since the summer of 2016.

Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Radzibon reported on some of the complaints he heard from people, including an elderly man who claimed the noise aggravated his heart condition, a resident whose window shattered from the vibrations of an explosion, and a farmer whose cattle herd started a stampede.

“It is absolutely terrorizing the people in Moltke Township,” Radzibon said, “and there is no reason for it. Sheriff Brewbaker and I have been working pretty hard on this over the last two weeks.”

He said there are currently no state or federal laws to prohibit the actions because it is being done on private property.

Altman said they will work on a zoning ordinance that would help address the noise issues and prevent future problems.

“We are aware of it,” Altman said, “and we will let you know what we are going to do.”

Kaitlin Ryan can be reached at kryan@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 989-358-5693.