PIERSON TOWNSHIP – The Pierson Township Board approved a “restrictive” wind ordinance Tuesday night.
The 3-1 vote to approve an amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance to provide for public utility facilities and wind energy conversion systems took place after a public hearing at which four people spoke.
Pierson Township Supervisor Bill Van Til, Treasurer Kathy Hyrns and Trustee Melanie Gould voted in favor of the new wind ordinance while Clerk Sara Burkholder cast the lone opposing vote, saying she believes the new ordinance is too restrictive.
“I wish it was a little more open,” Burkholder told the Daily News after the meeting. “I don’t see businesses lined up to come to Pierson Township. I think it’s an economic opportunity we should be more open to.”
Trustee Chuck Schueremann was absent from Tuesday’s meeting due to illness.
Pierson Township’s new wind ordinance addresses many “potential harmful secondary effects of wind energy systems,” including falling ice or ice throws, nighttime wind turbine noise-causing possible sleep disturbance, the sound from wind energy facilities possibly impacting people’s health and wellbeing, alternating changes in light intensity caused by the moving blades of wind turbines and shadow flicker possibly causing health issues. The ordinance also notes the township’s desire to protect ecological and environmentally sensitive areas within the township, such as wildlife habitats and bird migration routes.
“The most common and prevalent land use in Pierson Township is agricultural and its preservation has been an ongoing goal within the community for many years,” the new ordinance states. “This ordinance is intended to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the township and to encourage the safe, effective, efficient and orderly development and operation of wind energy resources in the township while preserving and protecting the character and the stability of residential, agricultural, recreational, commercial and other areas within the township.”
Pierson Township Zoning Administrator Orvin Moore noted during Tuesday’s meeting that the wording of the new ordinance is restrictive.
“They’re (Apex Clean Energy) proposing 500-foot towers,” Moore said. “That (the new ordinance) would mean that nothing could be developed within 1,000 feet of it and it would have to be set back from any property line 1,000 feet.”
Steve Poulsen of Maple Valley Township was present and mentioned how his township board recently approved its own wind ordinance.
“(A) Gratiot County (representative) was there (at the most recent Maple Valley Township Board meeting) and they (Gratiot County) got millions of dollars back,” Poulsen said. “They said it helped their fire, police and roads. This talks about economic growth and I see this as a potential for that.
I know some people talk about windmills looking bad, but it can’t look any worse than the landfill across the road,” Poulsen added, referring to Central Sanitary Landfill across the street from Pierson Township Hall. “I just wondered if this will help Pierson Township economically as well.”
“The short answer to that is possibly,” Moore responded. “That setback to me makes it pretty restrictive.
“No matter where you’re at, no matter how you go about it, they’re going to be built,” Moore added. “If there’s enough subsidy out there and they want to put them here and it’s done in good conscience, I think it can be a good thing. Just to say you can have them or no, you can’t, I think is just putting your head in the sand. I don’t know how many ordinances like this in the state of Michigan.
“I talked to the Apex people, they stopped by one day and we had a nice conversation,” Moore said. “Right now I think their effort is to be a good partner. I don’t think they want to just drop something in and say see you later, it’s your problem.
“But I might feel different in a few years,” Moore admitted.
Tyler Lecceadone, who just recently joined the Pierson Township Planning Commission and was not involved in creating the new ordinance, also voiced concern that the new ordinance might be too restrictive.
“To the best of our ability, we’ve got to protect the township,” Moore responded.
The Pierson Township Board then voted 3-1 to adopt the wind ordinance.
WIND IN OTHER TOWNSHIPS
Wind energy regulation ordinances are a topic at many Montcalm County municipalities these days.
The Douglass Township Board voted to approve a wind ordinance Nov. 4 after a public hearing hosted by that township’s Planning Commission took place Oct. 30.
The Maple Valley Township Board voted on Nov. 9 to adopt a wind ordinance.
The Winfield Township Planning Commission is set to discuss a proposed wind ordinance at 7 p.m. Monday.
The Montcalm Township Board has a public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 2 to discuss a wind ordinance recommended for approval by that township’s Planning Commission. (UPDATE: The Dec. 2 public hearing is being rescheduled due to COVID restrictions. The new meeting date is still being determined and will be posted at montcalmtownship.com when it’s rescheduled).
The topic of wind energy has been discussed and will continue to be discussed in Pine, Reynolds and Sidney townships as well.
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