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The Douglass Township Board on Wednesday, at the recommendation of its Planning Commission, voted 5-0 to extend the township’s wind energy moratorium for a full year – into August 2022.
Many of the more than 80 people in attendance applauded the vote.
Supervisor Terry Anderson said the board decided to extend the moratorium at the advice of their attorney, Ron Reddick of Mika Meyers, who was present Wednesday.
“I told you people before, we’re gonna do a lot of stuff that Ron recommends,” said Anderson, referring to comments Anderson previously made in June, when he said the township board will take the advice of their attorney when deciding how to vote on a wind ordinance.
The Planning Commission previously voted 4-2 in May to send a so-called “Citizens Ordinance” to a public hearing to be followed by a vote on whether to recommend the ordinance to the township board. However, last week, the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to table that ordinance and start over.
Planning Commission Chairman Jack Jeppesen on Wednesday said the Planning Commission will be meeting once a month starting in late August for the foreseeable future to work on updating its wind ordinance (the township’s current wind ordinance was created in 2017, but most people agree it needs to be updated).
Joshua Nolan, an Ohio-based attorney, was present on behalf of Douglass Township Energy Coalition. He thanked the township board for extending the moratorium, but he warned that people are still concerned the board won’t do anything and may just fall back on the ordinance from 2017.
“That would be political suicide on the part of the board,” Nolan said, adding that other than one line in the 2017 ordinance calling for measuring sound at the property line, the entire ordinance should be scrapped.
Nolan then offered the township board some “free political advice,” saying they should approve a wind ordinance with protections and if some residents don’t like it, they can referendum it. He noted that if the board approves an ordinance with fewer protections, residents can referendum that too.
“You can expect that the citizens who didn’t get the protections that they felt they needed are going to look to you and blame you for that lack of protection, and that’s going to have political consequences forever,” Nolan said. “By all means, do what you think is best for the community. There is absolutely no way to make everyone happy.”
Jeppesen took issue with Nolan’s comments, as well as how Jeppesen says some township officials are being treated.
“In school, it’s called bullying,” Jeppesen said. “When I have Planning Commission members that get spit on, called names and other things out in public places – what do you call that? Let’s all grow up a little bit, give us some time to work on things. There was a comment by Mr. Nolan tonight that said ‘you probably better do this or you’re gonna be thrown out of office.’ That’s almost a threat to me.”
“You called us terrorists!” a woman declared from the audience to Jeppesen (referring to an incident last winter).
Jeppesen’s wife Kellie also voiced concern with the wind opposition group, saying, “They are not saying we want to compromise, they are saying we don’t want any. Do you guys want any or do you guys want to compromise?”
Ron Finegood, a township resident and attorney, wondered why the township boards and planning commissions in Montcalm County didn’t take a more unified approach from the start in creating a unified wind ordinance template.
“All the planning commissions in this county and all of the boards – you should have all gotten together and worked on this and we’d probably be a lot further along and then you wouldn’t be worried about the cost of litigation which might be involved if Apex (Clean Energy) is going to contest what will hopefully be a strong ordinance that will meet everyone’s needs,” Finegood said. “You should have done that in the first place, but you haven’t.”
“When this all started, we got on the phone and we talked to the county commissioners,” Anderson responded. “You know what they wanted to do with this? They didn’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole. I honestly wish the county would have done it because it would have been a lot easier. At the county level, they said ‘no way, we’re not gonna do it.’ So that’s what we got out of the county commissioners.”
Finegood noted local township supervisors and planning commission chairs could have still organized and worked together.
“You’re exactly right,” Anderson said. “There should have been one ordinance put together countywide, that would have made things a lot easier.”
“But now all of a sudden one of the (Montcalm County) commissioners (Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview) has come out (in support of Apex’s proposed wind project) and he’s gone and signed his lease (with Apex),” Finegood noted. “And the Cato commissioner (meaning Cato Township Board Supervisor Larry Gilbert) the other day, it was in today’s Daily News, he said ‘they’re (turbines) gonna be here no matter what.’
“I don’t think what Mr. Nolan said was a threat – I think it was a promise,” Finegood concluded.
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