The Maple Valley Township Board is backpedaling on a controversial wind ordinance.
The township board voted 4-0 on Monday night to rescind Ordinance 24, which it had approved last November; to rescind approval of a ballot question on the ordinance (making a planned voter referendum on the ordinance later this year now unnecessary); and to place a six-month moratorium on any wind activity in the township.
Supervisor John Schwandt, Clerk Shirley Sanders, Treasurer June Miller and Trustee Lee Frandsen all voted “yes” while new Trustee Benjamin Newell abstained from voting due to his lease with Apex Clean Energy. All three votes passed without any discussion by township board members, implying the decisions had been made before the meeting.
“We’re going to take six months, look back and reconsider everything,” Schwandt told the more than 70 people present via Zoom. “We’re going to go back to our planning board and reconsider what we want to do in the future.”
In another action to show their willingness to listen to the community, the township board allowed Josh Nolan a place on the agenda to speak for 15 minutes with some recommendations for the township’s wind ordinance. Nolan is an attorney who’s been retained by citizens in Maple Valley Township, as well as in Douglass Township, where that township’s wind ordinance is also in the process of being repealed (a public hearing on that topic is scheduled for March 24 in Douglass Township).
Nolan recommended that the Maple Valley Township Board in their future wind ordinance make sure to decrease their sound limit from 55 decibels to at least 45 decibels; to move the sound limit to the property line; to add a low frequency sound limit; to add a turbine height limit; to regulate turbines from the hub height instead of the tip height; to set turbine setbacks at four to five times the height of the turbine; to set a zero shadow flicker limit; to request a safety manual from any wind developer; to create a complaint resolution process for township residents; and to create a specific decommissioning bond for the turbines.
“These turbines are only going to continue to grow,” Nolan said. “They’re at 660 feet and it won’t be much longer before we see 800 and then 1,000 feet.”
Multiple township residents thanked the board for their actions at Monday’s meeting.
“I really truly appreciate the board rescinding Ordinance 24,” Vicki Douglass of Maple Valley Township said. “I totally appreciate a six-month moratorium on this. I think that our last board meeting showed that a lot of information was left out to the board. I don’t hold anything against the board … I think that a carrot was held out in front of them. It sounded good, but more information has come out.”
Also during Monday’s meeting, the township board appointed Andi Knapp to the Planning Commission.
“I look forward to working with everybody,” Knapp said. “I know that we have a lot of work during the six-month moratorium.”
Two residents spoke in favor of wind turbines during Monday’s meeting.
“With your noise ordinance, is that going to include all those crop dusters that go around all day dusting the crops?” asked Vicky Brugess of Maple Valley Township. “Is that going to be included in the wind ordinance too? We support the wind farm.”
Maple Valley Township Zoning Administrator David Kelsey of Six Lakes, who is also the ZA for Belvidere, Cato, Douglass, Home, Richland and Winfield townships, also spoke in favor of turbines, as he has repeatedly done at other recent township board meetings.
“Me and my wife did go directly underneath one not even a week ago,” Kelsey said. “The wind speed was 10 miles an hour. We had to shut our engine off to hear that noise. We went half a mile away we shut the engine off and we couldn’t hear that noise.
“I’d sure choose turbines,” he said. “They’re not perfect, but they’re a heck of a lot better than fossil fuels. I sure don’t want any fossil fuel plans or nuclear power plans around here when they can’t supply us with enough electric.”
Nolan voiced some concerns in response to Kelsey’s comments.
“I can promise you without any equivocation that wind turbines generate noise,” Nolan said. “I would also encourage him (Kelsey) to be cautious about the way he’s broaching this topic in several different townships because he’s going to be expected to enforce their ordinances and there are going to be people who question how he can enforce these ordinances evenhandedly. If you are working in a position of authority, it needs to be done very, very cautiously.”
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