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Montcalm Twp. Board OKs moratorium on wind projects

MONTCALM TOWNSHIP – Following a public hearing that featured a near-constant theme of complaints from area residents over the prospect of wind turbines making their way to this township, a moratorium on any such developments was approved in unanimous fashion.

Members of the Montcalm Township Board voted unanimously Wednesday evening to implement a six-month moratorium (through the establishment of a new, temporary ordinance) on the issuance of any zoning approvals, rezonings, permits, licenses or approvals for wind energy systems, effective the day after publication in the local newspaper of record (Daily News).

The moratorium comes as the Montcalm Township Planning Commission continues to work toward amending the township’s current wind and solar ordinances.

The moratorium, which can be renewed by a vote of the Board, will expire after six months or when the amended ordinance is eventually approved by the Township Board, whichever comes first.

Township Supervisor Doug Crowley stressed that there are currently no requests for any such approvals, rezonings, permits or licenses that have been presented to the Township at this time.

The vote came following little discussion on the subject from Board members themselves, but several residents of Montcalm and other townships within Montcalm County making up the more than 40 people in the audience at the Montcalm Township Hall came forward expressing concerns and opinions against the potential construction of wind turbines.

Each comment, of which nearly all concluded with applause from a majority of the audience, focused on concerns over wind turbines and the priorities of the township board and planning commission.

“For the record, I’m against these turbines completely. I find them disgusting, for a list of multiple reasons,” Montcalm Township resident Kent Gardner said. “I would like to say I am definitely in favor of the moratorium. I want the board and the Planning Commission to be able to work without the influence of outside corporations. I want them to have ample time to be able to do their own homework and not feel rushed when coming to a decision on this ordnance. This is like packing a parachute and jumping out of an airplane. You’ve got one shot, and if it doesn’t go good, you can never try it again. I want them to come to an ordinance that focuses on safety and health. Whether you are for these things or against these damn things, I think everyone can come to an agreement on health.”

Several people who spoke out during the public hearing expressed concern that they believe Apex Clean Energy, which has proposed to construct as many as 75 600-foot wind turbines throughout Montcalm County, could be providing influence in regards to the new ordinance.

When the ordinance was first drafted in August of last year, meeting minutes show the Planning Commission communicated directly via email with Apex Senior Development Manager Albert Jongewaard as it reviewed and prepared the amended ordinance for potential adoption.

However, a public hearing on that amended ordinance has yet to take place as the Planning Commission continues to work toward amending the ordinance further.

“You are our representatives, you’re not Apex’s representatives,” Montcalm Township resident Mark Sylvester said. “You can collude with us, we’re all one group, one people. This is our house. You want to listen to the people and we don’t want it (wind turbines).”

The only audience member who did not speak out against wind turbines during the public hearing was Jongewaard, who, while being interrupted twice by members of the audience, spoke to address what he said were misconceptions and false allegations regarding Apex’s proposed project, wind turbines and wind energy.

“There’s a lot that’s been said, but it doesn’t bear any truth,” he said.

Jongewaard then invited those in attendance to attend an open house to be hosted by Apex, scheduled for July 13 at the Montcalm County Fairgrounds. The open house is aimed at residents of Montcalm and Sidney Township to receive information regarding Apex’s proposed “Montcalm Wind” project.

“I hope between now and the summer, and as we continue to do our work, we will talk about the facts of these projects,” Jongewaard said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s been said. There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstandings out there, too.”