Whether or not SC Johnson’s proposed wind turbines become a reality now rests with the Mount Pleasant Village Board.
At the Nov. 23 Planning Commission meeting, members ended with a tie vote and one abstention, effectively taking no action but allowing the issue to move forward for trustees to decide.
Commission member Davis Driver said he was uncomfortable voting on SC Johnson’s proposal without having had a chance to review the new plan and information presented by Tom Joy, a village resident who opposes the turbines.
“We have a lot of conflicting information and I don’t think we should be voting until we can read over the materials,” he said. “But if we table this, I don’t want to come back and get another pile of information.”
Gregg Anderegg, a representative from SC Johnson, asked for a vote, even if it went against the turbine proposal.
“Timing is of the essence here,” he said. “For ordering purposes, a delay would be the most damaging. We would rather have a ‘yay’ or a ‘nay’ to move to the Village Board.”
SC Johnson wants to place two wind turbines in the northwest corner of their Waxdale plant to generate up to 15 percent of the facility’s electricity. The goal is to produce 100 percent of its needed energy on-site with 60 percent of that energy from renewable sources.
Anderegg presented a modified plan where the company is still asking for approval of five potential locations for the turbines but has reduced the number of machines from three to two. Additionally, according to the PowerPoint documents provided to the Planning Commission, SC Johnson’s planned locations maximize setbacks from residences to help make sure citizens have as much distance as possible to reduce noice and flicker.
“We want to make sure Waxdale is a competitive manufacturing facility for the long term,” Anderegg told commission members. “We also want to be a good neighbor to the people who live in the area so we’ve maximized setbacks from buildings and residences.”
Citizens who live along Willow Road will be 2,000 feet from the nearest turbine and should have readings of about 40 decibels at their front door from the blades turning. A 40-decibel reading is the equivalent of a quiet library, Anderegg told the panel.
But Joy and Gail Johnson, both of whom live on Willow Road across from Waxdale, don’t buy the information SC Johnson is providing. They cited a variety of studies and documents from Dr. Nina Pierpont of Johns Hopkins University, McCann Appraisal LLC, and ABC News, among other sources, to support their position. (Please note: these sources may not be the ones provided by Mr. Joy, but are linked here as representatives of the type of information he was presenting.)
“You can’t ignore the health issues,” Johnson said. “We raised our families here and like the quiet.”
Joy remains concerned about home values, the potential of losing television and radio signals, noise and flicker pollution.
“I dispute the information presented by SC Johnson,” he said. “You have to do more than just accept what they give you.”
Joy read excerpts from several sources that cite the risks associated with wind turbines for both people and wildlife and passed out packets of information for commission members to review. A petition Joy composed and for which he collected 24 signatures against the project was rejected by the village as a protest petition.
“Mr. Joy’s petition does not have the required amount of signatures – 20 percent – of the SC Johnson perimeter necessary to require a super majority vote,” said Brennan Kane, deputy director of planning. A super majority vote would require 5-2 approval instead of the simple majority vote of 4-3 without the protest petition designation.
Trustees Harry Manning and Gary Feest were both present and gave their input about the turbines; Manning saying he didn’t feel the Planning Commission could move forward without an ordinance.
“I think we should consider a stay until the state figures out where its going with turbines,” he said.
Feest, on the other hand, said he wasn’t big on proceeding without an ordinance, but was willing to let the Plan Commission continue with their process.
Planning Director Ron Meyer, when questioned, confirmed that most communities who approve wind turbines don’t have ordinances governing the units.
“Mount Pleasant doesn’t need an ordinance to move forward,” he stated.
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