PONTIAC - Wind farms will be allowed in Livingston County.
Despite several concerns, the Livingston County Board approved a zoning amendment Thursday that will allow wind energy conversion systems to be built in the county.
Several County Board members wanted slight changes to the drafted proposal to guarantee property values, but the amendment was adopted without those alterations.
Board attorney Tom Blakeman said without the zoning amendment, a company could propose building a farm without paying upfront costs to the county, without meeting strict guidelines and without County Board approval in the process.
"It's an insurance policy to put in place to protect us," said board member Jon Goembel.
The amendment requires companies to pay the county $25,000 in fees to start the zoning process. Before a wind farm can be built, it has to be approved by the county's zoning board of appeals and the County Board.
The amendment also includes provisions for setbacks from buildings, noise, appearance and decommissioning a wind farm.
About 75 people attended the meeting. Those who opposed the measure were concerned with changes to the landscape and future county planning.
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"We have to protect our rural characteristics," said Blackstone resident Judy Campbell. "Until this summer, I never thought about retiring anywhere but here. I love the rural setting and my home is here. - That all will change."
Several companies have approached landowners in the county about putting wind farms on their property.
Blakeman said it may be a year or two before a wind farm is proposed in the county because companies are still testing wind speeds.
Zoning administrator Chuck Schoop and a County Board committee have worked on the amendment for about a year.
Officials previously debated the property value guarantee. Such a provision would mandate the project developer guarantee neighbors' property values the same way quarry and landfill owners have to.
Blakeman said the issue can be addressed on a case-by-case basis as the plans come before the board.
"I don't know if we have done enough to protect the landowners," said board member Laura Sellmyer, who cast a "no" vote. "We should table this and get in more protection."
Stan Weber also voted "no."
Several County Board members toured a wind farm through a trip sponsored by the Livingston County Farm Bureau.