SAINT JOHNS, Mich. (WLNS) – The Clinton County Planning Commission prepared changes to local ordinances related to putting in wind and solar projects.
The move comes as state officials are working on changes statewide.
The Clinton County review began after planning leaders put a one-year pause on new wind and solar projects.
Commissioners spent Thursday night reviewing the draft language, line by line. The citizen advisory committee recommended changes include new soil testing requirements and glare testing on solar panels before any construction on large-scale renewable energy projects in the county.
Some residents, like Theresa Hubbard, attended the meeting to voice opposition to the draft language. She worries the changes will harm the county’s economy.
“They’ll lose the jobs,” she says. “They’ll lose the tax money. They – Clinton County – becomes the loser all around.”
Members from the advisory committee say the rigorous requirements inserted in the draft ordinance, such as minimum distances between solar panels and wind turbines from property lines, are necessary.
The move is also done in part to shield the county from legislation moving through the state house. Under that legislation, permitting for large-scale wind and solar projects would be put under the auspices of the Michigan Public Service Commission. The body regulates most utilities in the state.
“We know what the house bills want and they are a far cry from what we have drawn up,” says David Smith, a citizen advisory board member.
Democratic lawmaker Abraham Aiyash says the legislation moving through the House will help developers and landowners interested in renewables and alleviate administrative pressures on smaller communities.
Critics of the legislation claim it would remove local control and decision-making about renewable energy projects from the hands of locals and the state.
“It does not prohibit local units of government from setting up a process,” says Aiyash. “So long as the standards are not to eliminate these types of projects.”
Republican House member Graham Filler, who represents a portion of Clinton County, believes the legislation would run roughshod over local concerns and ordinances.
“All you’re doing is foisting these very interesting, gigantic solar projects on agricultural districts, if they want it or not,” he says.
Legislative sponsors say local government would have multiple avenues of action and input in addressing large-scale renewable projects.
The Clinton County changes will return for a public hearing in the future.