2018-03-04 / Insight

In northern Lapeer County, it’s all about the wind

BY ANDREW DIETDERICH
810-452-2609 • adietderich@mihomepaper.com

BURLINGTON TWP. — Officials in North Branch and Burlington townships continue preparing for any potential wind energy developments that may be headed to the area in northern Lapeer County.

Both communities passed moratoriums in November (North Branch’s is for one year, Burlington’s is for two years.).

The moratoriums are designed to prevent any applications from being submitted while official craft local law related to the 500-foot industrial machines.

DTE Energy officials recently told The County Press that company officials are evaluating the area as a potential site for a $300 million “wind farm” that could consist of 50-60 wind turbines. The company has secured about 90 “easement agreements” in the area specific to wind energy development.

In addition to North Branch and Burlington, Burnside Township also is part of the area being evaluated. Officials there recently enacted amendments to the township’s zoning ordinance that DTE officials have said make it impossible to erect any wind turbines in Burnside.

In North Branch Township, the existing zoning ordinance does not address commercial wind turbines.

Burlington Township doesn’t have a zoning ordinance. As a result, township officials first had to create a planning commission that would, in turn, be charged with crafting a township master plan and then an accompanying zoning ordinance.

Charles Oberle, supervisor of Burlington Township, said since November — when the moratorium was enacted — the five-member planning commission has been formed.

The first meeting of the Burlington Township planning commission was in January. A second was held in February. Both meetings have largely encompassed organizational matters with regard to how it will proceed.

Oberle said he expects the March meeting will begin to address how to proceed with establishing a master plan. The planning commission meets the first Wednesday of the month at the village of Clifford hall.

Township attorney Brian Garner said he expects a “town hall” type meeting will be held soon to allow for public input into the master plan. A date hadn’t been set as of press time.

Oberle said he’s happy with the process so far and that it appears to be on track.

West of Burlington, in North Branch Township, things have slowed due to the Feb. 4 death of Supervisor Lynn Hoffman, 71. He had held the position of supervisor for 26 years.

Clerk Amy Bridger-Snoblen could not be reached for comment by press time.

Garner — who also represents North Branch Township — said the township has 45 days from the time the office is vacated to fill it. Otherwise, he said, a special election will be required.

However, Garner said he believes officials are close to appointing a new supervisor. Once that happens, the township board will fill the “one or two” vacancies on the township’s planning commission.

The planning commission ultimately will recommend updates to the township board, which will have the final vote in enacting any amendments to the zoning ordinance.

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