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Sidney Township planners finish proposed wind ordinance

As the ongoing conversation around an upcoming wind ordinance continues in Sidney Township, the Planning Commission is getting ready to make a draft version of the ordinance available to the public.

The Planning Commission met on Wednesday night to continue discussing the topic of wind and what the next steps of adopting an ordinance for the township may look like.

According to Planning Commission Secretary Jeff Lodholtz, a draft version of the ordinance is now complete.

“I’ve got the wind ordinance done,” Lodholtz told the approximately 26 people in attendance at the virtual meeting. “It’s gone through two attorneys. At this point, I need to make a motion to send it to the board.”

“That comes with the stipulation that we, as a Planning Commission, haven’t finalized (the ordinance),” Trustee and Township Board representative Ray Leyer noted. “We haven’t had a public hearing on it.”

“We have to have a public hearing on it,” Lodholtz agreed. “(The ordinance) has been sent to everyone on the Planning Commission and we need to have a public hearing. I’d like to make a motion to send it on to the board with that stipulation.”

Lodholtz’s motion passed unanimously. The date for a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.

When asked by members of the public when the community might get a chance to read the draft ordinance, the Planning Commission said that it would be available on Sidney Township’s website (www.sidneymi.org/home.html) before any public hearing.

“Let’s just say it will be available no later than Monday,” Leyer said.

During public comments, Albert Jongewaard of Apex Clean Energy asked Lodholtz if he could further explain the process taken when drafting the ordinance.

“The wind ordinance was something I wrote,” Lodholtz answered. “We took it through two attorneys. One of them had a background in wind. Neither one of them were pro or against wind. One just had a background in wind. From there, I revised it based on their comments and our discussions. Now, I’ve sent it to the Planning Commission. They’ve had a chance to look it over and we’re going to email it to the (township) board.

“We, as a Planning Commission, still need to do a public hearing on it so that everyone gets a chance to see it, comment on it and so on and so forth. The board will probably have to do a public hearing as well and approve it from there.”

“So you wrote that – was there input process in the drafting or writing (of the ordinance)?” Jongewaard wondered.

“From who?” Lodholtz asked.

“That’s my question,” Jongewaard replied. “From anybody.”

“Yes, there’s input from other townships, there’s input from our residents, from our Planning Commission and the two attorneys,” Lodholtz explained. “We did not reach out to Apex at all.”

According to Lodholtz, one of the next major projects the Planning Commission will begin working on following the wind ordinance will be a solar ordinance – a project which Lodholtz hopes to present during the Planning Commission’s meeting in June.

Montcalm County Citizens United Facebook page administrator Erik Benko and several others thanked Lodholtz and the Planning Commission for their time and effort when crafting the wind ordinance.

“I haven’t seen the ordinance yet, but it’s obvious from Jeff’s description of the process that you guys put in some due diligence and we really appreciate that,” Benko said.

“It’s a big deal,” Planning Commission Chairwoman Michelle Damaska noted. “We really, as a group, knew that we had to take our time and research both sides of the issue and get proper information on it. It’s a big deal, for sure.

“Jeff has put a lot of time and effort into this ordinance,” she added. “I know some of the rest of us have done research and looked into things. He’s done quite a lot. I want to say thank you and great job for your efforts. It needs to be publicly known. I’ve told you that, but everyone needs to know that.”

Kay Scott of Sidney Township read a prepared statement about her hopes for the drafted wind ordinance addressing shadow flicker (the effect of the sun shining through the rotating blades of a wind turbine), after dittoing Benko’s thanks.

“Any amount of shadow flicker is disturbing and intrusive,” Scott said. “We are not someone else’s collateral damage. It is reasonable to insist on no shadow flicker. I repeat. I believe that’s reasonable and I know other people agree.

“If the ordinance says no shadow flicker, it’d be easy to prove a violation. If the ordinance allows some shadow flicker, it’d be nearly impossible to prove the extent of the concern or achieve resolution when violations occur.”

Lodholtz said that the draft ordinance does address the issue of shadow flicker.