DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – The Douglass Township Board split 3-2 on Wednesday evening in approving a motion to place a six-month moratorium on wind energy action in yet another uncivilized meeting.
Immediately after the vote, Supervisor Terry Anderson didn’t hold back in sharing what the past few months have been like for him and his colleagues in dealing with the fallout of a township wind ordinance approved late last year.
“Obviously we did not have enough information,” Anderson admitted to the audience of more than 100 people attending via Zoom. “We’ve gotta change some stuff. We know we’ve gotta do that. It’s just a matter of getting together with everybody.
“But lately the township board has felt like we’ve got thrown under the bus,” Anderson declared. “Some of the township board are tired of being yelled at, called names, being treated like garbage. We’re here to help make the rules. It doesn’t do any good to call us names and get all bent out of shape with us. We thought we were doing a good job. Obviously, there’s a lot of people who didn’t.
“We’ve been getting rode hard and put away wet on the stuff we’ve been doing. This is a peace offering,” he said of the moratorium (although Anderson voted in favor of the moratorium, he repeatedly stated he didn’t believe it was necessary). “We want you folks to work with us. If you can’t work with us, I don’t know what we’re going to do. Some of the board members are really frustrated with this. We’ve been treated nasty. Don’t come at us like you’re going to eat us for lunch. If you’re going to treat us like garbage and eat us for lunch, I’m telling you, this is going to haunt everybody.
“Part of the problem with Apex (Clean Energy) … their PR program really sucks, excuse my language,” Anderson said. “We’ve been taking all the hits, they’ve been sitting back waiting for us to take the hits, apparently. We asked for some help from the (Montcalm) county commissioners. We got none. We got none. We got none.
“Most of us have been on this board for 20 years. We’ve never been treated like this before,” he concluded.
Montcalm County Commissioner Adam Petersen of Montcalm Township was present via Zoom and responded to Anderson’s comments regarding county commissioners.
“I can’t say that’s completely true,” said Petersen of Anderson’s allegations. “I posted in the group there on Facebook and asked, pleaded for people to start working together, trying to, you know, have respect for each other. Other than that, I’m not sure what I could have done. The county doesn’t have any control over what its citizens do or how they conduct themselves. I personally tried to help as much as I could. We can’t bang a golden hammer and make everything go away.”
Anderson, Clerk Ronda Snyder and Treasurer Amy Laper voted in favor of the six-month moratorium, while trustees Tom Jeppesen and Doug Poulsen voted “no.”
Even as some audience members used the Zoom chatroom to thank three of the board members for approving the moratorium, others used the chatroom to criticize township officials.
“What about Mr. Jeppesen?” a woman named Tara wrote. “He is not willing to work with anyone and HE TREATS PEOPLE LIKE GARBAGE. Don’t be hypocritical. You allow this type of behavior from a township official but expect RESPECT in return?”
Tara was referring to Douglass Township Planning Commission Chairman Jack Jeppesen – the brother of Trustee Tom Jeppesen.
In response to residents dropping off wind turbine information at his residence unannounced, Jack Jeppesen has made repeated public comments implying that those same people may have intended to poison the milk on his dairy farm.
“I think they got the wrong one,” said Tom Jeppesen in response to Tara’s comment. “I don’t think they know the difference between myself and my brother. Tara, whoever you are, you don’t know who I am.”
“That’s the kind of stuff the township board is tired of,” Anderson added. “We’re perfectly willing to work with people, but not like this.”
Josh Nolan, an Ohio-based attorney hired by the recently formed Douglass Township Energy Coalition, addressed township officials to voice his clients’ concerns about the township’s wind ordinance – including sound decibels, setbacks and shadow flicker.
“I’m here to try to be a resource for the board because this is an issue that is very complex and creates a lot of emotion for people,” Nolan said. “You’re going to hear a lot of words from wind turbine developers – not much of them mean anything.”
Apex Development Manager Albert Jongewaard was present via Zoom and he tilted his head in disbelief at this statement.
“Contrary to what seem to be some people’s opinions on the page, we’re not bad people,” Jongewaard responded. “We have every intention of working with the community to build a safe and responsible project.”
Audience members used the Zoom chatroom to repeatedly criticize and rudely mock Jongewaard throughout the meeting. Some even interrupted him vocally – one woman didn’t appear to realize others could hear her and scoffed, “Salesman” as Jongewaard spoke.
“You’re not on mute,” Jongewaard told the woman.
“It’s not the wind energy company, it’s not me, Albert, who’s disrupting the community,” Jongewaard told the board and audience members. “There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding, perhaps, about what’s going on and what’s not going on. I’m not going to have an application in the next six months, our wind studies aren’t going to be ready in the next six months. But like it or not, there is a community of people here who support these projects. We will stay engaged.”
The Douglass Township Planning Commission and township board have a joint meeting scheduled for Feb. 24 to discuss the township’s wind ordinance and the upcoming voter referendum on it. The meeting will be open to the public and will likely take place via Zoom.
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