TUSTIN – Although the Sherman Township Planning Commission decided once again to table the vote on a contentious wind turbine ordinance, officials are anxious to put the matter to rest.
“Whatever is going to get this thing settled with the least amount of fighting,” planning commission Secretary Tasha Lapinski said.
For the past two planning commission meetings, a vote on the proposed ordinance pertaining to wind turbine development has been delayed.
At the January meeting, a public hearing was held, and commissioners decided to make revisions to the ordinance based on the feedback they received from residents, as well as Save Our Sherman, an organization devoted to limiting turbine development in the township.
Opponents of turbines say the machines could potentially decrease property values and also pose a health risk from the low-frequency noise they emit, as well as “shadow flicker” when the blades pass in front of the sun.
At the February meeting, commissioner John Langworthy was absent, so the commission decided to delay a vote on the ordinance changes until March.
Langworthy again was absent for the March meeting, held on Tuesday, but he requested the commission wait until he can attend in April before they vote on the ordinance.
The commission agreed to wait, but Nemish said a decision must be made in April.
“We’ve delayed this long enough,” Nemish said. “We need to move forward on this.”
If the commission approves the ordinance changes in April, another public hearing will be held in May to gather feedback from residents.
Since the first public hearing in January, the commission has discussed a number of possible changes to the ordinance, including increasing setback requirements and providing insurance for residents in case property values decrease as a result of the turbines.
On Tuesday, commission Chairman Ron Moesta said as far as he was concerned, the 199-foot height limit will effectively keep turbines out of the area, and anything beyond that, including increasing setbacks, is “overkill.”
Moesta also addressed an issue he said has been brought up repeatedly by those opposed to turbine development, which is the fear that the zoning board of appeals could issue a variance that overrules the ordinance and allow, for instance, turbines over 199 feet tall to be built.
To alleviate some of these concerns, Moesta provided a list of criteria set forth by the Michigan Township Association that zoning boards must follow before they can issue a variance.
“The ZBA is only designed to make minor changes to the ordinance,” Moesta said. “And an attorney would have to be involved in all decisions, especially related to wind turbines, to make sure they’re legal. It would be virtually impossible for them to (issue a height variance on a turbine).”
During public comment, SOS member Harvey Langworthy objected to a statement made by Moesta at the February meeting, when he said that studies have shown that property values are not adversely affected by wind turbines, citing information he found online.
Langworthy said the “blogger” who posted this information, Mike Barnard, is neither credible nor objective. He added that some of the cited research was sponsored by wind companies, which makes them biased.
Moesta did not respond to the comments made by Langworthy.
The next planning commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 14, at which time the commissioners will discuss the possibility of increasing the distance between the turbines and non-leased property, among other things.
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