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Bloomer Township Board tables wind/solar ordinance vote

BLOOMER TOWNSHIP – The Bloomer Township Board was set to vote on a wind energy ordinance Monday as recommended by its Planning Commission, but they voted instead to table it for another month.

The Township Board met for its regular monthly meeting via Zoom. Besides township officials and the Daily News, no other audience members were present.

The township’s Planning Commission previously held a public hearing in August 2020 regarding solar and wind energy zoning ordinance amendments, which was then recommended to the township board (you can read the full proposed ordinance here: Bloomer Twp ordinance).

On Monday, Township Board Trustee Tara Chapko made a motion to approve the ordinance as recommended.

“Based on what the Planning Commission has done and the paperwork written up from the lawyer, I would recommend we go ahead and implement that ordinance,” Chapko said.

However, Trustee Larry Hummel had some concerns, referencing a federal lawsuit involving Gratiot County’s North Shade Township and its own wind energy ordinance language. (After Monday’s meeting, the Daily News told Hummel there was no federal lawsuit involving North Shade Township and asked if Hummel might be referring to a lawsuit brought by NextEra Energy Resources against Tuscola County’s Almer Township in 2017, which Hummel confirmed.)

“I’ve asked this question for a couple months now … based on what we heard about happening in November in North Shade Township, my only concern was that our attorney reviewed those couple of items that cause them a problem and cost them a lot of legal fees that they ultimately ended up winning,” Hummel said during Monday’s meeting. “The two items from North Shade had to do with the 2,000 foot setback from a property, the shadow flicker language and the decibel language.

“If it happened with somebody very close by, it couldn’t hurt us to have our attorney say yea or nay, it’s fine or we shouldn’t approve it,” he said. “I don’t think our attorney has answered those questions yet, have they?”

Chapko then withdrew her motion and Hummel made a motion to contact the Bloomer Township attorney regarding the proposed wind ordinance to make sure the shadow flicker language, the distance from property line language and the decibel language protected the township.

That motion passed in a 4-0 vote with Chapko, Hummel, Clerk Sharon Miller and Treasurer Colleen Schneider all voting “yes.” Supervisor Dan Ryan was absent from Monday’s meeting.

“Ultimately there will be an ordinance and it will pass, I’m quite certain,” Hummel said.

According to the Huron Daily Tribune, NextEra sued Almer Township after that township’s Planning Commission enacted a moratorium for more time to make a decision and review their renewable energy ordinances. While the court case was pending, township officials made some changes to their ordinances, including to turbine setbacks. NextEra’s lawsuit against the township was dismissed by a federal judge in 2018.

The Daily News contacted North Shade Township Supervisor John Peck to ask him how the Gratiot Wind Farms Project in Gratiot County’s North Shade Township near Montcalm County’s Bloomer Township was going. The 60-turbine project was created by Enel Green Power North America, was acquired by Consumers Energy and went into action in late 2020.

Peck said the wind farm is going well as far as the township is concerned, but he added that personally the wind farm has caused some unpleasant issues for him involving anti-wind activists.

“I’ve gotten hollered at by people coming into our township who are upset that it’s being put up,” he said. “These people aren’t even from our township. It’s quite interesting.”