CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP – Like many townships in Montcalm County, the Crystal Township Board is beginning the process of creating/updating a wind ordinance.
The topic of renewable energy, both wind and solar, was broached by the Crystal Township Board during Wednesday’s meeting. The board briefly discussed creating a wind ordinance in township meetings over the past few months, but has not yet started drafting an ordinance.
“Articles are in the Daily News every day about the wind ordinances that are happening or not happening in communities around us,” said Trustee Diane Rydahl on Wednesday. “Our takeaway from watching the webinar from Apex was that we didn’t think Crystal Township was on their (Apex’s) radar because our biggest asset, the lake, is protecting us.”
Apex Clean Energy Public Engagement Manager Brian O’Shea told the Daily News in February that Crystal Township was not one of the areas that Apex is currently looking at for the Montcalm Wind Project.
“Frankly, I don’t think we spent a lot of time talking to folks in Crystal Township about it,” O’Shea said. “It’s nothing to do with zoning laws or anything like that, (the township) just hasn’t been a part of the initial area that we’ve been looking at. Our philosophy is to engage in the community wherever it is we’re working. It wouldn’t be the case that we’re ignoring officials or trying to go over anyone’s heads.”
Rydahl wondered if the board should continue looking into the matter.
With an example of a wind ordinance from New Haven Township in front of the board, questions arose as to the first steps needed to create a renewable energy ordinance.
“Do we need to make a motion whether we’re for it?” Rydahl asked. “Or if we’re going to let them come here?
“I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think you can stop them,” Supervisor Curt McCracken responded. “You can have a set of laws they have to follow, but the board can’t stop them.”
“I think it’s up to the people who own the land,” Treasurer Nancy Mills added. “We’d create certain rules they’d have to follow that would make that maybe uncomfortable.”
“And those rules would be in an ordinance,” Rydahl finished.
Clerk Patty Baker-Marek wondered if a renewable energy or wind ordinance in Crystal would look different from other townships given that Crystal Township doesn’t have any zoning restrictions.
“Does that limit what we can regulate, since we don’t have zoning?” she asked, to which both McCracken and Rydahl responded that they didn’t believe this was the case.
McCracken said while he wasn’t opposed to creating a ordinance, he also wasn’t against the idea of wind turbines.
“I can see having an ordinance, but I’ve worked all my life to pay for my farm ground, and then to have a seven-man board tell you if I can put one on my ground or not?” he observed.
Rydahl brought up points of looking at areas where wind turbines would or wouldn’t be practical within Crystal.
“That’d all be part of the ordinance, I guess,” she said. “The ordinance would be developed based on maybe where the population of the people are the heaviest. It can’t be within so many miles of that. I don’t know, I have to start reading some of them (other townships’ ordinances) to see how they’re developed and make some communications for our community. Where you’re at, Curt, it’s not nearly as heavily populated as it is right here on the lake.”
Board members also discussed potential revenue that the community could capture from wind turbines.
“Just look at Carson schools,” Mills noted.
Carson City-Crystal Area Schools may capture approximately $5.65 million from wind turbines in Gratiot County if CC-C voters approve a zero bond ballot proposal in August. Apart from an increase to Palo residents, residents’ taxes will not be increased if the proposal passes.
The topic of solar energy, which the township is also looking to address, was briefly mentioned on Wednesday.
“I know that solar is hitting our area, or trying to get some ground in our area,” McCracken said. “I haven’t had no one from a wind tower contact me, but I’ve had solar people contact me.”
Board members agreed to do some more research on other township’s wind, solar and renewable energy ordinances and to revisit the topic during their next board meeting in June.
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