MAPLE VALLEY TOWNSHIP – The Maple Valley Township Planning Commission distributed wind turbine maps and offered up a turbine installation manual for residents’ perusal Thursday evening.
The meeting was calm and well-organized, a pleasant change of pace from April’s chaotic event. Nearly 50 audience members were present in person Thursday at the Coral Community Center. Chairman Roger Becker, Vice Chairwoman Andi Knapp and commissioners Randy Davis and Lee Frandsen were all present, while Commissioner Carolyn Kelsey was absent.
Becker reported that Apex Clean Energy is currently considering “five or six” turbines for Maple Valley Township and he emphasized the location maps he distributed to audience members were theoretical only and were based on a variety of theoretical setbacks. He said the turbine installation manual will be available for reading at the Coral Community Center, along with the township maps as well as documents from turbine manufacturers Vestas and Nordex (Apex has not yet said which turbine models it may be using).
(See copies of the township maps at the end of this article.)
“I’m trying to get everything I can for you,” Becker told the audience. “We’re trying to keep everybody happy and we’re trying to make it (wind energy development) feasible for some of the farmers around here too.”
Knapp distributed copies of wind ordinances from Montcalm County’s Sidney Township, as well as Larkin Township in Midland County and Novesta Township in Tuscola County for consideration by her fellow commissioners. Knapp also listed on Thursday’s meeting agenda turbine several priorities voiced by audience members at April’s meeting (including turbine setbacks from property lines and lakes, sound levels, shadow flicker and decommissioning language).
Knapp said her goal is “to make sure the first thing we think of is the health, safety and welfare of everyone in this township and to make sure everyone’s property rights are respected.”
However, one commissioner voiced concern that if the township’s wind ordinance is too restrictive, a wind developer may sue.
“If we out-zone these people that have a lot bigger bank accounts than probably Maple Valley Township has, then we’re setting ourselves up for a lawsuit,” Commissioner Randy Davis said.
Vinny Trierweiler was one of many audience members who disagreed with the sentiment that a restrictive ordinance will automatically result in a lawsuit.
“A lot of these township boards are making it seem like restrictive measures are going to be a problem,” Trierweiler said. “But you can’t be a door-to-door salesman and come to somebody’s door and if person turns them down then they get to sue you. Say I’m selling you a car and you say no – you can’t come and sue me, especially when a change of character is in the master plan of the township. They can’t just come and change the character and sue when the township doesn’t let them.”
Vicki Douglass, who lives on Cowden Lake in Maple Valley Township, brought a photo of a nearby MET tower to show her concerns about the height of the turbines proposed for Montcalm County. She gave an emotional statement requesting that the township implement a minimum five-mile turbine setback from any body of water.
“If it is truly about money needs for our township, then raise our taxes,” Douglass said. “Taxes can be raised and lowered. Taxes can be changed.”
The Planning Commission didn’t discuss or take any action on creating a wind ordinance during Thursday’s meeting. Their next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on June 3.
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