MAPLE GROVE TWP. – On April 16, the Maple Grove Township Board meeting was again filled with close to 200 residents who wanted to voice their opinions about allowing wind turbines in the community.
Township Superintendent Kevin Krupp addressed the crowd saying, “Last month was a very good conversation.” Krupp said he talked with Norm Stephens of Almer Township in Tuscola County who told him that he’d never seen such a calm and open dialog about wind turbines in all the meetings he’d attended across the state. “That’s a tribute to you,” Krupp told the audience.
Wesley Peterman addressed the township board saying, “We have over 450 signatures of residents, that’s almost 20 percent of the population, who want more restrictive wind (policies).” He asked the township board implement a moratorium. Peterman explained that he started a group called Informed Citizens of Maple Grove Township and hired wind attorney Joshua Nolan to represent them.
Peterman said, “We want our board to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents.”
Krupp responded, “We as a board are continuing to do what we have done, to protect the residents.” He listed other areas where the board has defended its residents, including the Misteguay Creek drainage project, the ambulance service, bringing the road millage to a vote. He asked them, in what ways residents believe the board had failed to protect them.
“We have been advised not to place a moratorium,” Krupp said. He explained township attorney Bill Fahey advised them that doing so would open the township up for a lawsuit.
Since Maple Grove Township already has an ordinance covering small wind turbines, the attorney recommended writing an ordinance to address industrial wind turbines.
Krupp explained the process of creating an ordinance. The township board asks the township planning commission to look into writing an ordinance on industrial wind turbines. The planning commission would research and makes recommendations.
“There are all kinds of variables; noise, shadow flicker, setbacks, decommissioning, potential road damage, etc.,” Krupp said.
Since the planning commission meets every other month, he doesn’t expect to hear anything from them for a very long time.
Peterman said, “Staying silent works against us. Normally, people want to see an ordinance.”
Krupp responded, “Creating an ordinance opens us up to litigation. The Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners, I can tell they’re tired of dealing with it. For two years they’ve been working on it.” Krupp wants to see the ordinance Shiawassee County adopts.
He doesn’t think the wind company is all that interested in Maple Grove; “They’d need to pay 85 percent of the people in the community.”
He talked about the March 27 Shiawassee County Planning Board meeting that was held at Ovid-Elsie High School. Krupp believes the biggest thing that came out of that meeting is it would take 232 acres of land for one wind turbine under the proposed requirements. Those specifications included noise not to exceed 45 decibels, no more than 24 hours of shadow flicker allowed per year, a maximum height of 500 feet and setback to the nearest nonparticipating property line would be 325 percent or more of overall height.
Maple Grove Township resident Norma Gross said, “I appreciate everything you’ve said, about transparency.” However, Gross told Krupp that seven of 13 Maple Grove Township officials have a personal, direct or indirect interest in wind energy. She referred to members of the planning board, zoning board and township board. Krupp explained that the five township board members will be making the decision.
Gary Birkmeier said he wants to correct something that someone said at the last meeting about wind mills generating money for the schools. He explained that schools are funded by the state based upon the number of students. “If we really want to maintain money in the school district, we need to increase the number of students. If we start to lose population from our schools it starts to disintegrate them.”
Frank Bishop said, “During the last meeting, a lady spoke about wind turbines out west. My sister lives out there. I talked with a nephew, who explained that wind turbines are located on wind farms. “No animals, no barns, no crops, no houses,” he said.
Having looked at a map indicating the location of properties that have already signed wind contracts, he said, “I can see there’s four leases in (one) section. There are 33 houses there.”
Krupp explained that the state legislature has given people the right to use their land for wind turbines. The state also forced power companies to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources.
“If we created an ordinance that was non-restrictive. If people didn’t want it, they could call for a referendum vote. If the majority of people say they don’t want an ordinance in a referendum, that would end it. If we went all the way through the process and didn’t come up with an ordinance people want, it would go,” Krupp said.
Gerald Particka asked about the Shiawassee County wind ordinance and how close to the ground the turbine propellers go.
Krupp responded, “75 feet from the ground.”
Particka said, “There are areas in the Thumb where they’re lowering them to 20 to 25 feet from the ground in order to comply with setbacks (based on overall height).”
Sally Quaderer said she had talked with farmers in northern Michigan who have wind turbines. They had to stop farming the land because there were no worms in the soil due to the vibrations made by the wind turbines. “The farms go to hell,” she said.
Birkmeier said, “I’d like people to think long term. The windmills put up 10 years ago are obsolete. Once you put a windmill on your property, it’s there for 35 years. The windmills now are going offshore. Then you’ve got these old rust buckets left. Think of what our ancestors left us (farms, schools, churches). What are we going to leave? No one has the money to tear them out.”
Krupp pointed out that the proposed Shiawassee County ordinance has provisions for a decommissioning bond, but acknowledged that they hadn’t figured out how to maintain enough money in the fund long term.
Gwen Wendling said, “My husband and I work very hard to have a home on land our grandfathers owned. Farming is planting seeds, and growing crops. Utility companies do not care about us.” She explained that a company that takes advantage of a government program won’t stay if the government money dries up. “People will start moving away. Our kids will not want to move back (here). This is about protecting our community’s future. Is it really worth taking the money? I’m tired of hearing, ‘It’s my land.’ But there are rules. There are over 2,000 people in this community, we all have the same rights. I’m proud of the legacy my grandfather left us. If you sign a contract, you should think about the legacy you’re leaving.”
Krupp said, “There probably isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t have a conflict of interest. You should declare those conflicts. I don’t feel it’s wind turbines tearing this community apart. We’re going to send it through the process and take lots of time.”
Jackie Harris said, “A few years ago we dug a pond. We had to follow rules and regulations.” She explained that she had to get her neighbors’ approval for the pond and had to remove all of the excess dirt in less than a year. “So why is my dirt an eyesore, but no one was asked they (could have a wind turbine next door)?”
Krupp said, “You nailed it. They can’t. There is a very restrictive pond ordinance in this township. The same rationale goes in to (writing other ordinances).”
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