After failing in its plans to build 65 upscale homes on land that was once sand-mined, Nugent Sand Co. wants to embark on an experiment involving generation of wind power and is seeking approval tonight.
Within the next month, the firm would like to erect two meteorological towers up to 162 feet in height on its property. They would be used only for the next year to test wind speeds and direction.
That information would be used to determine whether it would be profitable to install equipment necessary to start producing wind-generated electrical power on the site, according to Norton Shores Mayor Jerry Wiersma.
“It’s not in the critical dunes area, to my knowledge,” Wiersma said of where Nugent Sand would like to erect the two towers on its property located at 2925 Lincoln Street in Norton Shores. One 162-foot tower would be placed on the southwest side of the sand-mining company’s land and a smaller one, with a height of 30 or 40 meters, would go up on the northwest side of the site.
In a letter to city officials, Nugent Sand President Robert Chandonnet indicated the structures are made by an internationally recognized manufacturer and won’t require excavation or tree removal. The towers will be anchored by screw-in anchors or arrowhead earth anchors driven into the ground deeply enough to hold up the towers “under worst case anticipated wind and icing loads,” according to Chandonnet.
Norton Shores City Council will hold a special meeting at 6:30 tonight at Norton Shores Branch Library, 705 Seminole, to consider amending Nugent’s special use permit to allow the towers. Conditions staff suggested for approval include that the towers obtain any necessary permits from both the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Nugent Sand has experienced plenty of public opposition to its plans for use of its property over the years. Wiersma said he hopes the firm’s plan to experiment with wind-power doesn’t get the same reaction as other ideas the company has proposed.
“I just hope they don’t come out and say, ‘Not in my backyard,’ because I’m a firm believer in green power,” Wiersma said, adding he won’t know until tonight exactly where the two towers will be placed.
Over opposition from environmentalists, Nugent Sand Co. obtained permission a year ago to continue mining sand near the Lake Michigan coast through 2011 with a state-approved permit. The firm was allowed to expand its man-made lake known as North Lake by 19 acres by dredging sand to a depth below the water table.
In 2005, DEQ Director Steven Chester refused to allow Nugent to build a wastewater discharge pipeline through the dunes that would have emptied into Lake Michigan. Company officials said the pipeline was needed to lower water levels to permit construction of 65 homes around two man-made lakes created by decades of mining sand from below the water table. The time to appeal Chester’s decision has expired.
Wiersma said he only recently learned about Nugent’s wind power proposal. The company’s wind power consultant called city hall asking for a building permit to put up the towers and was under the impression no other approval was necessary.
It was at that point that city officials decided to schedule tonight’s special city council meeting to consider amending Nugent’s special use permit and allow the testing towers, Wiersma said. Without the special meeting, the installation date would have to be postponed at least a month, because NRG Systems Inc. has other jobs booked for June and July, the mayor said.
“I think you’ve got to be somewhat accommodating,” Wiersma said, adding Nugent has been a “good citizen.”
While the one-year experiment is conducted, the community will have time to draft and adopt an ordinance regulating wind generation, before Nugent decides whether to move ahead with long-term plans for wind power.
Notice of tonight’s special meeting didn’t reach The Chronicle until after Monday’s deadline. City Administrator Mark Meyers and Planner Rob Bilkie couldn’t be reached for comment.
By Nancy Stier
12 June 2007
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