PINE TOWNSHIP – A majority of Pine Township residents who completed a wind energy survey do not want large wind turbines in the community, period.
Pine Township officials mailed out 950 wind energy surveys with 13 questions to township landowners and received 311 surveys back. Although the deadline to respond was May 26, the township has not posted the surveys online or made them public yet. The Daily News submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the surveys, for which the newspaper was charged $62.50.
The first question on the survey asked: “Do you believe that large wind energy systems should be utilized in Pine Township?”
A total of 200 people responded “no” to that question while 98 people responded “yes.”
Another 13 people didn’t answer the question and one of those people wrote in the margins of the survey, “I’m not fully educated on all the facts concerning this project and I will not come to the meetings and waste my time listening to fighting and people going round and round on this issue.”
The Pine Township Planning Commission is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. today, followed by a Pine Township Board meeting at 7 p.m. Both meetings will take place at the Flat River Conservation Club on M-91 just north of Greenville.
Here’s a closer look at survey responses which the Daily News broke down into three categories for the purposes of this story as follows: wind supporters (the 98 “yes” to large wind energy systems responses), wind opponents (the 200 “no” to large wind energy systems responses) and undecided (the 13 surveys that didn’t answer hat question).
“Our current ordinance does not cover a maximum total height for large wind energy systems. Should there be a total height limit? If you answered yes, what would be your reasonable recommendation for maximum tip height?”
WIND OPPONENTS: Only eight people answered “no” to the height limit question. Many others left this question blank or just wrote comments like, “None! Height of zero!!” or “Not interested in wind power” or “No damn windmills.”
For opponents who did provide height limit answers, the most common answer was 400 feet (40 people), followed by 300 feet (27 people), 100 feet (11 people), 200 feet (nine people), 350 feet (four people), 250 feet (four people) and 120 feet (three people).
One opponent wrote that they would support a turbine height limit of 1,500 feet, but they may have been confusing this question with a question about setbacks as the Daily News is not aware of any wind turbines in the world that are 1,500 feet high.
Pine Township already limits small wind energy systems to 100 feet in height, but many opponents in answering the height question about large wind energy systems wrote down answers ranging from 60 feet to 50 feet to 20 feet to 10 feet to even a 5-foot limit.
WIND SUPPORTERS: Fifty people answered “no” to whether a height limit was needed. Other answers included eight people suggesting 400 feet, six people suggesting 600 feet, five people suggesting 500 feet and four people suggesting 300 feet.
UNDECIDED: Six people answered “yes” to a height limit while three people said “no.” Three people suggested 400 feet, one person suggested 150 feet and one person suggested 100 feet.
“The current large wind ordinance systems ordinance has a setback of total turbine height plus 20 feet to a neighboring property line. What do you believe would be a reasonable setback distance from the property line?”
WIND OPPONENTS: There was a wide range of answers here: Four times the tip height (suggested by 20 people), 1,000 feet (17 people), 2,000 feet (14 people), 100 feet (12 people), 50 feet (eight people), two times the tip height (seven people), 500 feet (seven people), 5,280 feet or one mile (six people), 1,600 feet (six people), 200 feet (six people), 1,500 feet (five people) and the township’s current ordinance was adequate (five people).
Many opponents left the answer blank or wrote distances of 25,000 feet to 50,000 feet to 900,000 feet to 40 miles to 500 miles. One person wrote, “There isn’t a distance great enough.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: There was a wide range of answers here as well: 14 people said the township’s current setback limit was adequate while another 15 people wrote down 20 feet. Other answers ranged from 100 feet (eight people), 50 feet (eight people), 1,000 feet (five people), 300 feet (four people), 1,250 feet (three people) and1,200 feet (three people).
UNDECIDED: One person suggested a turbine’s height plus 100 feet, one suggested 1,600 feet, one suggested 600 feet, one suggested 100 feet, two suggested 20 feet, one suggested four times the tip height and one said the current ordinance is reasonable.
“Large energy wind systems use blinking red lights to ward off low-flying aircraft at night. Should the systems be required to use available technology to ensure that their lighting be turned on only when aircraft is present?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 159 people answered “yes and 33 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 51 people answered “yes” and 44 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 7 people answered “yes” and 3 people answered “no.”
“Are you concerned that large wind energy systems may create a shadow flicker on your property?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 176 people answered “yes” and 31 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 13 people answered “yes” and 85 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 5 people answered “yes” and 5 people answered “no.”
“Do you feel that Pine Township should have an account, funded by the large wind energy system 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?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 183 people answered “yes” and 10 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 79 people answered “yes” and 13 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 10 people answered “yes.”
“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?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 63 people answered “yes” and 132 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 78 people answered “yes” and 15 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 8 people answered “yes” and 2 people answered “no.”
“Do you have any firsthand knowledge or know of anyone having medical or health issues due to wind energy systems?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 34 people answered “yes” and 164 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 2 people answered “yes” and 96 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 11 people answered “no.”
“Do you have any firsthand knowledge or know of anyone having an increase or decrease in their property values due to wind energy systems?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 53 people answered “yes” and 141 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 4 people answered “yes” and 94 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 11 people answered “no.”
“With large wind energy systems increasing the township tax base, do you understand the financial impacts for the local school and other entities that collect funds from millages?”
WIND OPPONENTS: 125 people answered “yes” and 65 people answered “no.”
WIND SUPPORTERS: 69 people answered “yes” and 24 people answered “no.”
UNDECIDED: 5 people answered “yes” and 6 people answered “no.”
“If the township had additional revenue from a large wind energy systems project or some other type of economic development, what would you like to see the township do with those funds?”
WIND OPPONENTS: Many opponents left this answer blank or wrote “none.” Three people said they would rather see their taxes increased than see a wind project come in. One person wrote “Shove it up your (expletive)! We don’t need it!”
Other than these responses, the most common answer was road improvements (41 people), closely followed by lowering people’s taxes (35 people), helping public schools (10 people), making improvements to the township hall and local infrastructure in general (eight people) and improving local parks (five people).
WIND SUPPORTERS: Road improvements was also the most common answer here (38 people), followed by improvements to the township hall, recreation and infrastructure in general (22 people), lowering people’s taxes (11 people), public schools (10 people), police, fire and rescue services (five people), broadband internet (three people) and drainage, water and sewer improvements (three people).
UNDECIDED: Road improvements was also the most common answer here (4 people), followed by fire/police services (3 people), reducing taxes (2 people) and park/recreation improvements (2 people).
“What positive impact do you believe wind energy systems will have on Pine Township?”
WIND OPPONENTS: Almost all opponents wrote “none” here or left the answer blank. One person wrote, “It will push average people to become more involved in local government. Bringing the dysfunction and inadequacy of our local governing bodies to light is always a positive endeavor.”
Of the opponents who did provide an answer, an increased tax base/local revenue was the most common answer (24 people), followed by helping public schools (three people), lower electric rates (three people), new jobs (two people) and clean energy (two people).
WIND SUPPORTERS: The most common answers here had to do with clean, renewable energy, less dependence on fossil fuels and a healthier planet (33 people), closely followed by more local income, an improved local tax base and economic development (32 people), new jobs (nine people), lower electric bills (eight people), public school benefits (eight people), people and farmers being able to keep their land (seven people) and road improvements (six people).
UNDECIDED: Three people cited an increased tax base and more local revenue, while one cited a cleaner environment and less pollution and one cited helping save local farmland.
“What negative impact do you believe wind energy systems will have on Pine Township?”
WIND OPPONENTS: Opponents’ most common answer to this question by far had to do with aesthetics/view (120 people). One person wrote, “Many love living in the countryside and not a scene from ‘Mad Max’ or ‘The Matrix.” Multiple people wrote “Eyesore.”
The second most common response was concern about decreased property values (73 people), followed by concerns about birds/wildlife/animals (54 people), noise concerns (50 people), causing divisiveness in the township (26 people), health effect concerns (25 people), environmental/infrastructure damage/contamination concerns (25 people), shadow flicker (18 people), concerns about people moving out of the township (15 people) and increased taxes/increased electrical costs/loss of revenue (eight people).
WIND SUPPORTERS: Aesthetics of the landscape was the most common answer here from 16 people, followed by a concern of division and complaining residents (10 people) and disinformation and controversy created by uneducated residents (three people).
UNDECIDED: Two people cited aesthetics/view here while other answers included causing concern for neighboring property owners, divisiveness in the township, not being a sustainable project and giving people who like to complain and don’t want to understand the project even more to complain about.
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