Clinton County Circuit Judge Randy Tahvonen released a ruling Tuesday that strikes down ordinances passed by three townships. Tahvonen ruled in favor of the Chicago-based developer, Forest Hill Energy-Fowler Farms LLC, which challenged ordinances approved by the boards in Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships.
"The court ... finds that each township's wind turbine ordinance is invalid, unenforceable, and therefore, void," Tahvonen wrote.
The judge said the rules infringe on the county's zoning powers.
"In short, the townships did not have the legal authority to enact and enforce the ordinances," Tahvonen said.
Developers announced the proposed wind power project in 2008, and officials then reviewed and rewrote county zoning rules to accommodate it. The project calls for 39 wind turbines, which will be 427 feet tall at the top of the blade rotation.
The county's rules permit towers no more than 450 feet tall, allow up to 45 decibels of noise as measured from an off-site home and require that towers be at least 1,600 feet or four times the tower's height from any home, whichever is greater.
The Bengal Township ordinance would have capped the height at 400 feet, noise at 40 decibels at the nearest property line and a setback of 1,600 feet or four times the tower's height from any property line.
The Associated Press left a message Tuesday for William Fahey, lawyer for Dallas and Essex townships, seeking comment and asking whether an appeal is planned.
Fahey said earlier this year that the Michigan Legislature granted townships broad powers to regulate conduct for the public health, safety and general welfare.
"Our constitution says the powers of townships shall be liberally construed," Fahey said. "Unless there is some specific statute out there that takes these powers away, the townships continue to have the powers and can exercise them."