PIERSON TOWNSHIP – The Pierson Township Board has amended its zoning ordinance for the second time in three months regarding wind turbines.
Board members voted 4-1 on Feb. 16 to amend their zoning ordinance to establish a wind energy zone to allow commercial wind tower construction on six and a half sections east of Federal Road (old 131), which is mostly agricultural land.
Supervisor Dan Buyze, Clerk Sara Burkholder and trustees Jason Bergman and Bill Grice all voted “yes” while Treasurer Kathy Hyrns cast the lone opposing vote.
Hyrns did not return messages from the Daily News seeking comment about why she voted “no.”
The amendment was made at the recommendation of the Pierson Township Planning Commission which first held a Feb. 11 public hearing about creating a wind energy zone.
“One reason I suggested east of Federal is that’s what Apex (Clean Energy) proposed – east of Federal,” Zoning Administrator Orvin Moore noted during the Planning Commission meeting.
Lou Freybler of Pierson Township had the most questions during the Planning Commission public hearing (two or three unidentified men also briefly spoke during the meeting).
“I really have no problem with progress, but if the guy on grid 1 wants a windmill and the people around him don’t want one, then how will the township react to that?” Freybler asked.
Planning Commission Chairman Jim Ward responded that the township doesn’t have any control over turbine property contracts/leases and that the township was more focused on the location of turbines and the effects on adjacent property owners.
“Personally my biggest concern is how it affects the guy next door,” Ward noted. “We’re working toward the protection of our township and to make sure this doesn’t become problematic for neighbors and also other members of the township. I think there’s real benefits to wind power. My concern would be for how does it affect adjacent property owners.”
Moore noted that according to the township’s ordinance, a turbine setback from a property line has to be three times the height of a turbine.
“You still have issues with the birds, light flickering, the noise that people are concerned about,” Moore said. “When you go visit the sites where they’re (turbines) at, it doesn’t seem to be as near as big of an issue. We tried to be sensitive to all of those issues that were brought forth and some besides.”
Pierson Township Deputy Supervisor and Interim Zoning Administrator Lance Gates offered a word of caution.
“Most of us are around the lakes or on the west side of the freeway,” he noted. “I can tell you I know people over in that area (east of Federal Road) and there’s going to be some big pushback. I know that is majorly agricultural over there, however, not everybody that lives over there is part of a farm and not everybody over there is going to benefit from lease agreements. There is going to be some pushback from people who are over that way and are going to have to look at these a half a mile or a quarter of a mile across the field. I’m just saying.”
“I’ve been following this in the Greenville paper,” Freybler shared. “Don’t you have to put a notice in the paper where you’re going to put the windmills up so residents around there can give their public opinion on that lease? I just want to make sure the people around it have the voice to say.”
Planning Commissioner Tyler Lecceadone confirmed public hearings will take place regarding any special use permits for turbines.
“The wind farms are coming. It’s not a what if – it’s when,” Moore said. “I think we’re going to see pressure this spring or summer for development.”
“Everyone is going to have to deal with this sooner or later,” Gates agreed. “It’s not a matter of can you keep them out? It’s how do you manage them, period.”
In November 2020, the Pierson Township Board voted 3-1 to amend its zoning ordinance to provide for public utility facilities and wind energy conversion systems. Burkholder cast the lone opposing vote at that time, saying she believed it was too restrictive.
Pierson Township’s updated zoning ordinance can be viewed at www.piersontwp.org/zoning-assessor online.
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