To minimize costly disputes at the local community level, in 2011, the Bureau of Energy Systems began to work with the Community Dispute Resolution Program in Michigan to provide communities with contact information for individuals with specific expertise in wind-related Community Dispute Resolution, as well as information on the Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) program. In many jurisdictions throughout Michigan, courts are making citizens aware of the availability of mediation as an alternative to litigating many types of disputes.
Community Dispute Resolution
Community Dispute Resolution is a voluntary process in which two or more parties meet with a trained neutral mediator and together find a resolution to their problem. Mediators have no decision-making authority, and they do not render case evaluations as in the MCR 2.403 case evaluation process. Instead, mediators are trained to assist the parties in generating options that result in a mutually acceptable resolution of their conflict.
The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Section of the Michigan State Bar houses a number of mediators who have mediated gas/oil, land use, and various additional "siting" type issues, including wind farm issues. Other trained individuals work in government, private industry, the non-profit sector and academia. Some individuals have training specifically related to Wind Energy. Michigan also has a network of Community Dispute Resolution Program (CDRP) centers that offer mediation. The centers, supported in part with funding from the Michigan Supreme Court, are available to provide mediation in a wide variety of dispute types. (See: http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/dispute/ for information on Community Dispute Resolution program).
Local Community Wind Projects and Community Dispute Resolution
Many local municipalities are incorporating a provision for wind-specific dispute resolution processes in both their Planning Process and Local Zoning Ordinances that covers the planning, implementation, and operation stages of local wind farms. In the interest of minimizing the number of post-construction complaints, the Local municipalities may also wish to consider some preventive measures that might reduce the need for formal dispute resolution processes or litigation. For example, provisions might address requiring wind companies to include good-neighbor payments to non-participants who are located within a pre-determined distance of a utility-scale wind turbine. Another consideration for municipalities that wish to minimize disputes may be to limit wind energy projects only to areas of low residential density. Overlay districts may be useful in encouraging the siting of wind turbines in certain areas, in addition to encouraging continued use of those areas for agricultural purposes. In more industrialized areas, wind energy overlay districts could be identified to encourage placement of wind turbines in areas zoned as industrial.
Finally, the Bureau of Energy Services has identified the following individuals as having specific expertise in wind-related community dispute resolution and wind energy:
Dan Cherrin, (313) 300-0932, firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Bidwell, (336) 416 1644, email@example.com
John Sarver, (517) 290-8602, firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard J. Figura, (231) 326-2072, email@example.com.
For more information about the BES Community Dispute Resolution, visit www.michigan.gov
*Reprinted from State of Michigan Website