RIVERTON TWP. – Area residents who wanted to know more about concerns associated with wind farms had the opportunity to gather Sunday afternoon at Riverton Township Hall.
More than 30 people met to discuss wind turbines and possible impacts if Consumers Energy is able to build its planned 56 476-foot-tall wind turbines in Riverton and Summit townships.
Cary Shineldecker and Evelyn Bergaila, both Riverton Township residents, started the meeting off with a discussion about what is being planned and then discussed amendments to the Mason County Zoning Ordinance the two and other concerned residents have proposed.
Among requests in the group’s proposed amendments are an increase in the setbacks required for a wind turbine to 1.25 miles, currently the zoning ordinance calls for a setback of two times the height of the turbine. The 1.25 mile setback would be to help protect the health, safety and welfare of those living near turbines, the group has said. The setback takes into account noise, blade throw, ice throw – if ice formed on the blades loosens and then is thrown from the blade – bats and birds.
Bergaila said above 5 decibels above ambient sound, people begin to hear it as a nuisance.
Other concerns are interference with the microwave radio system, which Bergaila said is the national alert system.
She also said there’s nothing in the current ordinance about flicker or strobe effect. The amendments request no flicker within 100 feet of a residence that is non-participating with the wind farm, for example a residence that has not signed a lease with the utility company.
The Mason County Planning Commission is going through the amendment request, expecting to discuss it again
“I’m very happy that they’re going to look at them,” Bergaila said. “We really need to jump in and start looking at these texts with them.”
While Bergaila said the planning commission looking at the ordinances doesn’t mean there’s any promises of change in time to help Riverton, it’s a good start.
“It’s a county-wide thing, it’s not just Riverton or Summit, it’s all of us,” she said.
Shineldecker said the group’s efforts are not going unnoticed and that he recently received a call from 101st State Rep. Ray Franz. Shineldecker also said he’s not against wind energy as long as it’s done in a way that’s safe.
video showed people living near turbines
Sunday’s meeting organizers used video clips to demonstrate the reasons for their concern.
Among the videos they showed were clips of strobe created by wind turbines on homes within a wind farm, the sound of turbines at wind farms in other parts of the country.
Interviews with several people who live in wind farms in other parts of the country were also shown and highlighted negative impacts of strobe and to health they believe the turbines caused.
The meeting wrapped up with organizers encouraging residents to collect signatures for petitions, to contact Mason County commissioners with their concerns, and to attend Mason County Board of Commissioners and planning commission meetings.
As of this morning, Consumers Energy had not yet submitted an application for its wind project.
After reviewing advice from an attorney, the planning commission decided against recommending a moratorium on the construction of wind farms in Mason County to the Mason County Board of Commissioners. The planning commission hopes to sort through the amendment on its own without enacting a temporary halt to wind turbine construction in the county – likely meeting weekly for several months. The are expected to begin their weekly meetings Jan. 18.
The legal advice received indicated that if the planning commission could study the ordinance amendment and come up with any new language within the next three to five months, a moratorium would not be necessary.
If the planning commission needed more time, for example six months to a year, a moratorium would be more practical. If an application from Consumers Energy is received and not acted upon within about six months, the planning commission would be getting into due process issues, Mason County Zoning Director Mary Reilly said at last week’s planning commission meeting.
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