LAKE TOWNSHIP – A local resident is seeking to put the wind ordinance township officials adopted last month up for a vote of the people.
“Any time people have the opportunity to vote on something, I think they are grateful to have that opportunity,” said Clay Kelterborn, who filed the notice of intent last Wednesday. “ … Especially on something as important as this, we should be able to vote on it.”
Kelterborn, the former Lake Township supervisor, said he filed the notice of intent because he was dissatisfied with how things were handled at the township.
“We’re watching what’s going on in the county and we know there’s issues – people have problems they’re not happy with,” he said. “We thought they could do a better job and I wasn’t satisfied with the ordinance they prepared. I think they sold the township short on that. I think people in the township deserve better than that.”
Kelterborn took issue with a number of items in the ordinance, including the 1,500-foot turbine setbacks, noise limits and that it allows turbines to be sited within 3 miles of the shoreline. He noted U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials created recommendations that were specific to the area – particularly that turbines should not be cited within 3 miles of the shoreline.
“Why wouldn’t we as a community listen to those recommendations of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service? … I think there’s a lot of people that are aware of it, and if they’re not aware of it, they should be aware of it because we live in a unique community,” he said.
Kelterborn said he realizes that this is a divisive issue, but the township board has a duty to listen to concerns of everyone.
During a June 20 public hearing held to garner input on the township’s proposed wind energy overlay zoning ordinance, resident Bill Williams asked Lake Township Board members to let the people in the township vote on the issue, according to unapproved meeting minutes posted on the township’s website, www.laketownship.net.
“(Township Supervisor Robert T.) Smith responded that he is not going to do something that will cost the township more money,” according to the minutes.
There were about 38 people in attendance during the public hearing, of which about 10 voiced concerns about the ordinance and/or the fact that input was limited to three minutes per person and the board was not answering questions from the public.
Concerns included the fact that the ordinance does not include a property protection plan; energy bills will increase; the ordinance ignores World Health Organization guidelines and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommendations; Lansing hasn’t resolved the personal property tax issue; the ordinance’s turbine setback of 1,500 feet and noise requirements should be more protective; and the lack of decommissioning.
Four in attendance spoke in favor of the ordinance for reasons that included that wind energy is beneficial for the environment; the township and county will benefit from tax revenue wind developments pay; and the township has done a good job of studying this issue.
Regarding the board not answering questions from the audience, Lake Township Planning Commission Chairman Dave Szumlinski said he spoke during comment time in a previous meeting and had charges brought against him because of statements he made. He was found completely innocent, however.
In regard to a property protection plan, proponents of the ordinance noted it’s impossible to guarantee someone’s property value will not decrease – nor is it possible to write an ordinance that is legally enforceable and will guarantee a certain project is not going to negatively affect property values.
Lack of board support for property protection plan
During the June 20 public hearing, Trustee William Osborne said he agrees that there’s no way a property protection plan can be done.
Osborne referenced a study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, that looked at 24 different wind farms around the country and found limited and inconsistent statistical evidence that turbines have a widespread adverse effect on the property values of nearby homes. He said another study found there were no negative impacts and property values near a wind farm actually increased. He said the township “has bent over backwards to make the ordinance more liberal for homeowners than what the county did, and he is in favor of voting for the proposed wind ordinance,” according to the meeting minutes.
Township Clerk Valerie McCallum cited statements by Ben Hoen, one of the authors of that Berkley Lab study, indicating support for a property value guarantee.
By including a property protection plan as a requirement, she said, it is a guarantee for the 103 homes that will live near a future wind development. If the board doesn’t include such a plan, “the board is basically saying that they don’t give a darn about those people,” McCallum said, according to the minutes.
McCallum said it does not cost the township anything to put such a plan in the ordinance.
She suggested creating an ad hoc committee to study the issue, and asked Deb McBride, who is on the planning commission and in the insurance business, and Jim Quinn, a resident and property appraiser, to serve on that committee with Tim Lalley, who provided officials with information about property protection plans. She said the committee could then make recommendations to the planning commission.
The board should take the time to get an ordinance done the right way, McCallum said. She noted there are about 27 landowners in Lake Township with recorded wind power documents, and only 10 of the 27 actually live within Sections 19 – 36 of Lake Township, and there are several residences in Section 13 that could also potentially be affected.
McCallum’s motion to create an ad hoc committee to study a property protection plan failed for lack of support.
Osborne made a motion to vote on the ordinance as written, and it was passed with the support of all board members save McCallum. In addition to voting no, she objected to Osborne and Treasurer Dorothy Fischer voting on the ordinance because of a conflict of interest.
Resident Lou Colletta also felt they should have recused themselves from the vote, just like county officials with wind easements/leases have done in areas where they have land contracted to wind developers.
Must file petition by end of July
Per state law, Kelterborn will have 30 days following the June 30 publication of the zoning ordinance to file a signed petition. The petition has to include the names of not less than 15 percent of the total number of individuals living in the township that voted during the last gubernatorial election.
Kelterborn said he doesn’t have a definitive idea of how many signatures he will need and he expects to learn more within the next couple of days. He said he believes he needs more than 50 signatures, but is aiming to get around 100.
Only registered voters in Lake Township will be able to sign the petition and vote in the election, if the petition-drive successfully results in getting a proposal to adopt the wind zoning ordinance on the ballot.
The township’s zoning ordinance will not take effect until one of the following occur:
• A petition is not filed within 30 days after the ordinance has been published.
• The clerk determines a petition is inadequate.
• The petition is determined to be adequate and a majority of the registered electors residing in the zoning jurisdiction vote to approve the ordinance.
Because Lake Township is self-zoned, everything is filed with the township clerk, said Huron County Clerk Peggy Koehler. As a result, the county has no role in this process.