DENMARK TOWNSHIP – A group of Denmark Township residents has repeatedly voiced its opposition to wind turbine development in the township, and its possible zoning requirements may aid their cause.
The Denmark Township board voted in December to renew its wind moratorium for six months through July 31, 2013. Denmark Township clerk Chuck Heinlein said the township planning commission faces a complex process of determining areas suitable for placing turbines.
Heinlein said certain complications for wind development come from the amount of air travel in Denmark Towship. Tuscola County Planning Commission chair Ione Vyse provided a map of the township showing the locations of three Denmark Township airstrips and the setbacks where tall structures like turbines may not be built. The map was not official, but merely showed the estimated setbacks of three Denmark Township airstrips.
“Bauer Airfield is currently a public airstrip, and I think we’ve got two others, maybe three, that they are trying to make public,” Heinlein said. “What happens is the setbacks from a public airstrip are considerably more than what they are from a private airstrip, so the setbacks would take up a large (area) for wind turbine development in Denmark Township.”
The map shows three airstrips in the township, with circles representing a 10,000-foot setback around each. There are also zoning rules regarding how far from village limits turbines may be constructed.
“Gilford Township has technically one community,” Heinlein said. “Now you take Denmark, we have the village of Reese, village of Richville, plus right here is where flight care medivac comes through … so we have gotten a letter from medical evacuation, medivac, saying they want us to consider where we are located on their flight path, so they have concerns too.”
Heinlein said that flight care helicopters based in Saginaw fly through Denmark Township airspace in response to medical calls from the Thumb.
“The thing we’re also faced with here is that we are right on the edge of the glide strip that goes into (Tuscola Area Airport in Caro),” Heinlein said. “They can fly small commuter jets into caro, and so they need a longer glide strip. There’s a lot of things, it’s not just open farm land and it goes on forever and ever. We’ve got a lot of things that the planning commission has to consider.”
Heinlein said that with the board turnover as a result of November’s election, the new planning commission has some housekeeping duties to handle first before tackling the wind development conundrum. The planning commission meets for the first time this year Tuesday, January 29 at 7 p.m. at Denmark Township Hall.
“It might be brought up lightly, but this is the first meeting of the new group of people so this will be more of an orgniazational meeting,” Heinlein said, noting that officers will be elected at the meeting. “They also have a conflict of interest issue that needs to be addressed right away. … The conflict of interest (issue) has to be resolved first before any wind energy development can take place. The previous board had a member on it that had property signed up with wind development people, and that posed a conflict of interest.
“You cannot get any benefit from a board (you’re on) or decision that you might make. As far as the current board, that’s what we don’t know. That’s going to be talked about at the first meeting. … It’s a sequence of events. They have (a similiar existing conflict of interest policy), but it’s not written out as ‘conflict of interest,’ and those are the words everybody’s looking for.”
Heinlein said planning commission members will have their work cut out for them when they wade into the wind issue.
“There’s a lot of things that have to be discussed, and then right through the middle of Denmark Township here we now have these ITC transmission lines,” Heinlein said. “We have a map and we have to do all of these overlays. It’s a big job the planning commission has to tackle. And as we have heard in a lot of the meetings, you have to go by your constiuents; how many people are actually in favor of these developments and how many are vehemently opposed. All of that has to be weighed, and the planning commission is the group that has to do this.”
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