BELVIDERE TOWNSHIP – The Belvidere Township Planning Commission is getting “pretty close” to finalizing a proposed wind ordinance for the township, according to the former Planning Commission chairman.
On Tuesday, the Belvidere Township Planning Commission met in front of an audience of roughly 15 people to discuss a proposed wind ordinance for the township.
With the Belvidere Township Board recently appointing Planning Commission Chairman Wayne Watts as a township trustee, the meeting kicked off with a new Planning Commission chairman appointment.
With little discussion over the matter, BJ Cogswell was selected and unanimously voted in to replace Watts as chairman. Watts still remains a member of the Planning Commission.
“Because I’ve just been appointed tonight and Wayne has kind of been walking us through this wind turbine and solar (ordinance), I’m going to refer to him tonight just to kind of walk us through it to make sure I’m on the right page with what he has in mind,” Cogswell said upon the appointment.
During the last Planning Commission meeting, Cogswell said commissioners discussed the topic of solar energy.
“The Planning Commission went over all solar energy ordinances, all concerns and any changes that we might have to do regarding small, medium and large solar,” she read from the meeting minutes. “The Planning Commission agreed on setback screening special land use permits for the larger solar.
“Some public concerns were brought to the board’s attention such as the amount of panels that would be allowed on a lot size and solar panels that are already in place. Will they be grandfathered in or do they have to meet new requirements? All solar ordinances that we agreed on at that meeting were forwarded to (land planner) Mark Eidelson, who will write them up for us for a final review. We have not set a date for that yet.”
The rest of Wednesday’s meeting focused on the topic of wind. Working with some notes from Eidelson regarding a proposed wind ordinance for the township, commissioners discussed topics such as turbine height, noise levels, shadow flicker and more.
“Last time, we talked about 600 feet (maximum for turbine height),” Watts said before noting that Eidelson’s recommendation was to lower it to 550 feet. “We had 350 (feet) in our (previous) ordinance. We’re still increasing it from 350 to 550.”
Upon discussing a 2,000 feet turbine setback from wetlands and verbiage regarding property lines, commissioners debated how to prevent shadow flicker within an ordinance.
Commissioners considered putting something along the lines of there being a maximum amount of 30 hours a year of shadow flicker, with an additional maximum of 30 minutes per day, at a non-participating resident’s property line; however, they also agreed to ask Eidelson if it was possible to be more restrictive than that within an ordinance.
As far as noise levels go, commissioners agreed that the average a-weighted decibels (dBas) a turbine or tower should omit over 24 hours shouldn’t exceed 50 dBas at the site and 35 dBas at the dwelling of a non-participating property.
“We want a 24-hour study for that,” Cogswell noted.
Commissioners additionally discussed requiring a safety measure of fencing around turbines, annual maintenance reports and how turbines should be decommissioned during the meeting.
Come time for public comments, Linda Reynolds of Douglass Township spoke about the maximum height requirements and noted that several other neighboring townships and municipalities have gone lower than 550 feet.
“When you’re writing this (ordinance), it shouldn’t be for Apex because they weren’t part of the equation when you started (writing) it,” Reynolds said. “There are going to be others coming to knock at your door, so you need to write it not for them but for what you guys want.”
Armon Withey of Six Lakes spoke about land use and, more specifically, a potential clause in the proposed ordinance stating that the minimum participating lot requirement can’t be less than 40 acres.
“I don’t care for wind,” Withey said. “I have solar, but you’re telling me that 40 acres – I can’t use it as I would want to use it. I think you’re throwing us into a situation. Some people may like the 40 acres. They can do their own thing when they negotiate or don’t negotiate with the company. Right now, it’s Apex, but it could be the XYZ company. You’re telling me, now, I can’t plant trees on it or whatever. When you start doing these things … I think you can’t do that.”
Robert Scott of Sidney Township later countered some of Withey’s points by quoting from the Belvidere Township’s website.
“It says that ‘Belvidere Township is a zoned township. Definition: An area of land for which there are uniform regulations governing the use of buildings and premises, density of development, yard requirements and height regulations.’ That’s what zoning does. It tells people what you can and cannot do with their property.”
Ultimately, commissioners agreed to pass their comments along to Eidelson so he can make some of the requested changes in the proposed ordinance.
“I think we’ve narrowed it down, considerably, to where Mark could re-write (a proposed ordinance),” Watts said of the Planning Commissions progress. “We’re pretty close.”
The Belvidere Township Planning Commission will meet again at 6 p.m. on Oct. 12. Commissioners also agreed to meet with Eidelson to discuss the proposed ordinance at 6 p.m. on Oct. 26.
When asked by Scott, Watts said that a draft version of the proposed ordinance should be available to the public by the Oct. 26 meeting.
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