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Decision on Sherman windmill ordinance once again tabled

TUSTIN – Members of the Sherman Township Planning Commission say they are doing everything they should to keep wind turbines out of the area, but Chairman Ron Moesta says he doesn’t think it will be enough to satisfy certain parties.

On Tuesday, the commission discussed a number of aspects of a proposed ordinance pertaining to wind turbine development in the area.

Several residents, including members of Save Our Sherman – a group devoted to the limitation of windmill development – said they didn’t approve of the proposed ordinance during a public hearing held last month.

The following were major points of contention brought up during that meeting:

Distance between turbines

According to the proposed ordinance, the minimum distance between turbines must be three times the 199-foot maximum height of the turbine (with blade in upright position).

SOS member Harvey Langworthy said his group believes this distance should be at least half a mile. He added that this was a compromise for SOS, since some studies have indicated the distance should be even greater.

Langworthy said the reason for the distance requirements is to lessen the potential health ramifications known to be caused by the windmills, including headaches, dizziness and loss of sleep.

Commission members Amy Martin and Tasha Lapinski said they didn’t think an increase in the minimum distance between windmills would matter, since the windmills don’t work efficiently unless they are properly spaced.

Sherman Township resident Adam Hundley commented that the larger distance could help in the event of a “catastrophic,” fall of one of the windmills.

“The fall wouldn’t damage another windmill in the area,” Hundley said.

Distance between turbine and non-leased property

According to the proposed ordinance, the minimum distance between a turbine and non-leased property must be five times the height of the turbine.

Langworthy said this should be at least 10 times the height of the turbine.

Moesta, along with commission member Pete Nemish, said they would not have a problem increasing the distance requirements between a turbine and non-leased property.

“I could go along with that because of the potential health issues,” Moesta said.

Lack of property protection

The current ordinance has no provision in the event that wind turbines reduce the value of property in the township.

Members of SOS, along with some residents, have said this should be included in the ordinance.

Lapinski said she didn’t think this should be included in the ordinance because it’s an issue of “perceived property value.”

She said, hypothetically, if a person has a neighbor who paints their house an unpleasant color, that person could not sue the township.

Moesta, citing a study conducted last year, added that facts don’t back up the assertion that wind turbines necessarily lead to reduced property values.

“The evidence isn’t there,” Moesta said. “That’s the facts.”

SOS member Langworthy asked for a copy of this study from Moesta.

What’s the issue?

At one point during the meeting, Lapinski commented that she though “it was sad they weren’t thinking about the next generation.”

“There are other things infinitely worse than living next to a wind turbine,” Lapinski said. “There’s people out there blowing the tops off mountains for coal so we can have our TVs on all night. I would have no problem living next to a wind turbine.”

Lapinski, along with other members of the commission, have said they are doing what they can to keep windmills out of Sherman Township without creating a situation where they could be sued by a developer for exclusionary zoning.

Members of SOS, including Victoria Brehm, disagree they could be sued, citing case law from other places in Michigan that have restrictive zoning ordinances in place.

Moesta said the relatively short maximum height of the turbines included in the proposed ordinance is enough to keep developers out.

“No wind company is going to come into our area,” Moesta has said. “They don’t build little turbines (under 199 feet) anymore. It’s not worth their while.”

He added that he believes no matter what concessions the commission makes, SOS will have a problem.

At the end of the meeting, Hundley commented that it wasn’t just SOS that wants to keep wind turbines out of the township.

“It’s Sherman residents, too,” Hundley said.

Discussion on the ordinance will continue at the commission’s next meeting on Tuesday, March 3.