A total of 950 surveys were mailed out to landowners and taxpayers in Pine Township on Monday requesting feedback regarding wind energy systems.
The responses to the 13 questions (see accompanying infobox) will be made public and will also be considered by township officials as they decide whether to amend the township’s wind energy ordinance which hasn’t been updated since 2016. The surveys are due back to the township by May 26.
The Pine Township Board voted 5-0 on Monday to approve up to $1,700 to pay for mailing out the surveys after Planning Commission Secretary Rosemary Witt reported the postage and envelope cost totaled $1,500. About $800 of the cost will come from the Planning Commission’s budget while the rest will come from the township’s budget.
Just shy of two dozen people were in the audience at Monday’s meeting, which was held at the Flat River Conservation Club in Montcalm Township for the second time in two months. Before public comment got underway, newly appointed Treasurer Kristen Diehl questioned why the meeting agenda stated a “3-minute time limit for each non-repetitive comment.”
“Just so we don’t have everybody saying the same thing over and over and over and over,” Clerk Marla Sprague responded. “That’s what I meant.”
“Well, I just feel that everybody gets three minutes,” Diehl observed.
“Alright, we’ll take that off,” Sprague said.
The survey questions were compiled by Witt and Gary Christensen from the Planning Commission, Pine Township Supervisor Bill Drews and Trustee Randy Robson and community members Nancy Spanski and Mike Rodder. Witt had a variety of people help stuff the envelopes for mailing.
“There’s been some scuttlebutt issues because I brought in different people to help stuff the envelopes,” Witt noted. “In the next phase, I’d like to get other people involved too. It’s the Planning Commission’s survey, we want to have help where we can. If anyone wants to help record, do data, typing, it’ll take a long time. I’m hoping we get 900 surveys back. Let me know if you’re into typing.”
Lindsey Simon of Pine Township was one of the volunteers who helped stuff envelopes.
“I was curious if those are going to be handled in an appropriate way, like if they are going to wait to be opened, or how they’re going to be handled, if you know?” Simon asked.
“The surveys will remain confidential as far as how people answer,” Witt said. “I have yet to select people to sit by me to open those surveys. The results will be tabulated, that’s not going to be confidential. How a person responds will remain confidential and that is explained in the survey.”
“But a lot of them aren’t yes or no answers is why I was wondering about that,” Simon noted. “It’s open-ended and people can write whatever they want.”
Shelley Grube of Pine Township also questioned how the results will be made public.
“If there’s a question on the results, how will we get the actual surveys that came in to look at the tabulation?” Grube asked.
“Why would you need to see them?” Witt asked.
“If there was a question on the results of the survey,” responded Grube, suggesting that maybe the township scan the surveys for easy public access.
“We need to remember that this is the Planning Commission survey to get input from the community for consideration about how to change the ordinance,” Witt responded. “The tabulation will be on paper. The physical surveys will be available if someone wants to look at them. I am not going to scan all those where they go public.”
“If there are some questions that are open for interpretation, will the people that are tallying, I mean … if they’re not yes or no questions … how do you interpret what that response is?” pressed Leslie Rydahl of Pine Township.
“All we can do is our best,” Witt responded.
At the end of Monday’s meeting, Rydahl handed out to township board members copies of Michigan case law involving wind ordinances that were challenged in court but the challenges failed (including Johnecheck vs. Bay Township and Tuscola Wind III vs. Almer Charter Township).
“I found some Michigan law that supports a restrictive wind ordinance, not exclusionary,” Rydahl told township board members.
Pine Township survey questions regarding large wind energy systems (LWES)
1. Do you believe that LWES should be utilized in Pine Township?
2. Our current ordinance does not cover a maximum total height for LWES. Should there be a total height limit? If you answered yes, what would be your reasonable recommendation for maximum tip height?
3. The current LWES ordinance has a setback of total turbine height plus 20 feet to anyone neighboring property line.What do you believe would be a reasonable setback distance from the property line?
4. LWES uses blinking red lights to ward off low-flying aircraft at night. Should LWES be required to use available technology to ensure that their lighting be turned on only when aircraft is present?
5. Are you concerned that LWES may create a shadow flicker on your property?
6. Do you feel that Pine Township should have an account, funded by the LWES developer and/or the subsequent owner, that protects the township from any damages during construction, legal fees, cost to enforce zoning violations and all decommissioning fees?
7. Our ordinance specifies a maximum 55 decibel noise level at the adjacent property line (55dB is about the noise level of a household refrigerator). Do you think the ordinance is adequate?
8. Do you have any firsthand knowledge or know of anyone having medical or health issues due to wind energy systems?
9. Do you have any firsthand knowledge or know of anyone having an increase or decrease in their property values due to wind energy systems?
10. With LWES increasing the township tax base, do you understand the financial impacts for the local school and other entities that collect funds from millages?
11. If the township had additional revenue from a LWES project or some other type of economic development, what would you like to see the township do with those funds?
12 (a). What positive impact do you believe wind energy systems will have on Pine Township?
12 (b). What negative impact do you believe wind energy systems will have on Pine Township?
Source: Pine Township
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