WINFIELD TOWNSHIP – The Winfield Township Board voted 5-0 on Thursday evening to set a public hearing on a new solar ordinance, as well as a pending wind ordinance.
Supervisor Phyllis Larson, Clerk Colleen Stebbins, Treasurer Cathy Killinger and trustees John Black and Steve Cole voted to approve the Planning Commission’s recommendation to hold a public hearing at 1 p.m. July 17 at Crossroads Worship Center at the intersection of M-46 and old 131 just north of Howard City. The focus of the public hearing will be on the Planning Commission’s recently drafted solar ordinance, as well as the township’s pending wind ordinance, which the Planning Commission has not yet drafted.
Black said he will be contacting Spicer Engineering to try to get “an expert to come to talk to the Planning Commission in June about decibels of sound” regarding both wind and solar at the Planning Commission’s next regular meeting, which will be 7 p.m. on June 28.
“We want to get a good understanding of how to measure the sound,” Black said.
Not including township officials or this reporter, nine people were in attendance at Thursday’s township board meeting.
During public comment, Mary Kay Darnell of Winfield Township asked township officials if they could update meeting postings in the window at the township hall in Amble (as the most recent list of annual Planning Commission meeting dates in the window is from 2018).
“Can you guys update the window or take the old things down?” Darnell asked.
“We can if we have the information,” Stebbins responded.
“I know, but when you have meetings from 2018, I think it’s out of date,” Darnell pointed out.
Jessica Kwekel of Cato Township asked Winfield Township officials to please advertise the July 17 public hearing in a local newspaper.
“I think it’s really important to invest in putting the notice in the newspaper,” she said. “That’s a really great way to reach the community and have community engagement. I think it’s very important.”
Dave Place who just moved to Winfield Township, asked about Apex Clean Energy’s proposal to place 75 turbines throughout Montcalm County.
“Where are they planning on putting these turbines?” he asked. “I just heard about it yesterday.”
“It’s still way off from putting any turbines anywhere,” Black said. “We’ve got to get an ordinance with setbacks and all the regulations about it and we’re nowhere near it. It’s just talk right now is all it is.”
Kevin Murphy of Winfield Township asked whether the Winfield Township Planning Commission has considered working with other township Planning Commissions regarding creating a wind ordinance.
“Cato seems to be going in a pretty good direction,” Murphy said. “We went to their meeting last night (Wednesday) and they’re really zeroing in. I think you should try to work with others instead of a lot of people wasting a lot of time.”
“I think a lot of the townships are kind of watching each other,” Black responded. “I’ve been reading about what’s going on in the other townships just to keep up on it.”
Cole added that he read an article about turbines in Michigan from 2018 which stated that turbines only killed three bald eagles while vehicles killed more than 500 bald eagles and a golf ball killed one. When Murphy asked for the name or author of this article, Cole said he found it online but he didn’t remember the source.
“Probably CNN,” Murphy opined to laughter and some applause from audience members. “I’m sure I can find an article that says you’re completely wrong. Biden won legally too.”
“I’m on the fence, I’m not sure whether I want it or whether I don’t,” said Cole regarding wind turbines.
Also on Thursday, the Winfield Township Board briefly discussed their previous vote during their budget meeting to give township officials salary increases.
The supervisor’s annual salary will increase by $1,200 (from $8,000 to $9,200), the clerk and treasurer’s annual salaries will increase by $1,500 each (Stebbins will go from $15,000 to $16,500 while Killinger will go from $12,000 to $13,500) and the trustees’ pay will increase to $100 per month (up from $78 per month) or $1,200 per year (trustees Black and Cole voted “no” on increasing their pay at the budget meeting but the motion passed 3-2).
Zoning Administrator David Kelsey will receive a pay increase of $40 per month (from $550 to $590 per year) and the township will discontinue paying Kelsey a fee of $8 per building permit.
The three members of the Zoning Board of Appeals will receive $45 per meeting (up from $25). The Planning Commission chairman and secretary will receive $45 per meeting (up from $30) while other Planning Commission members will receive $40 per meeting (up from $25).
“We did compare other townships and we were one of the lowest-paid townships in the whole area,” Black noted of the pay increases.
Also on Thursday, the Winfield Township Board voted 5-0 to hire Andy Ross as the new assessor for the township as assessor Dennis Wright is retiring July 1. Ross was the only candidate to apply for the job.
Ross, who is the Evergreen Township supervisor, is also the assessor for Reynolds Township. He will earn $12 per parcel for his work in Winfield Township.
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