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Douglass Township planners split on limiting wind turbine height  

Credit:  By Elisabeth Waldon | December 13, 2021 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~

DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – The Douglass Township Planning Commission voted 4-3 last Wednesday to recommend limiting wind turbine height to 150 feet.

Planning Commissioners Rick Baldwin, Kevin Rush, Cindy Shick and Todd Wells voted “yes” while Pat Althoff (who is also a township board trustee), Chairman Jack Jeppesen and Tim Snyder voted “no.”

Many of the more than three dozen audience members burst into applause and cheers at the vote; however, a wind ordinance limiting turbines to 150 feet tall will almost certainly not be approved by the Douglass Township Board, as Supervisor Terry Anderson has repeatedly said that the board will not pass an ordinance that completely restricts turbines.

The Planning Commission also voted 4-3 to recommend adding sound-sensitive areas to participating turbine parcels at the recommendation of township planner Paul LeBlanc. Althoff, Baldwin, Jeppesen and Snyder voted “yes” and Shick, Rush and Wells voted “no.”

As he has in previous meetings, Rush repeatedly questioned the recommendations of the township attorney and planner – including when Rush suggested the township require cash or even gold for turbine decommission and attorney Ron Redick advised against this, saying insurance bonds are typical and requiring cash or gold might be seen as unreasonable.

“It makes me wonder why we’re going over all this,” Rush declared. “The majority doesn’t even want wind towers.”

Later in the meeting, Shick voiced her concern about turbine shadow flicker on roads affecting people who are driving; however, Jeppesen noted that the majority of the Planning Commission just voted to limit turbine height to 150 feet, so this concern will very likely not be an issue with the current proposed ordinance as drafted.

LeBlanc said he would present an updated draft ordinance to the Planning Commission before their next meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2022.

PC REPLACEMENTS?

Multiple audience members – and one planner – brought up a “rumor” going around that Anderson is planning to not renew the soon-to-expire terms of two members of the Planning Commission.

“There’s rumors going around about Terry,” township resident Linda Reynolds said. “He is actually out there looking for two replacements on the PC board. This is troubling.”

“I don’t think that was the intent …” Planning Commissioner Tim Snyder began to respond, but Chairman Jack Jeppesen cut him off, saying, “This is public comment.”

“I don’t believe he would do that,” Reynolds continued of Anderson. “I think it’s gotta be a rumor, because why would he do that?”

“It’s not a rumor,” township resident Christa Baldwin said. “Terry has told us that that is his intent to replace Cindy (Shick) and Todd (Wells). So that is no rumor, unfortunately. You guys have done a great job tonight. If there’s going to replace two of the smartest, most intelligent people on our PC just because he is threatened by them, that is really sad.”

Wells himself then brought up the topic, asking the attorney if Anderson was allowed to not renew the terms of planning commissioners.

“I’ve been on this board for 19 years and three months,” Wells noted. “My question is where is it in our bylaws that says our (township) board can actually take people off our board (Planning Commission)?”

Redick said Anderson has no obligation to reappoint planning commissioners when their term expires per the Michigan Planning Enabling Act.

“The only way you ever got off this board prior to this rumor was you resigned or you died,” Baldwin noted.

Anderson did not return a message seeking comment from the Daily News seeking to clarify his intentions.

SUPERVISOR SOUNDS OFF

During the Dec. 1 township board meeting, Anderson was blunt in voicing his feelings about the ongoing wind ordinance process in his township and throughout Montcalm County.

Anderson said a Montcalm County commissioner (he didn’t name who) made a suggestion to him about Douglass Township.

“He says, ‘quit working on the wind ordinance, can it. You’ve got one from 2017,’ he says, ‘quit spending money on it. You’ve got one.’ It’s pretty open but we’ve got one. Now (attorney) Ron (Redick) thinks that’s a dumb idea cause it’s too wide open.

“What they did in Evergreen (Township), (Supervisor) Andy Ross apparently caught everybody with their pants down, he passed an ordinance over there, but they have zero zoning, they can’t referendum the ordinance that they passed,” Anderson opined.

“In the meantime, we get called names, we got called liars,” Anderson continued. “We are trying to do this right. We can either spend money now on attorneys and get this ordinance right or we can spend it later like what’s going to happen in Sidney (Township) because you can bet it’s going to go to court (in Sidney Township). As soon as those people are denied a place to put one of those wind towers, they’re going to take this whole thing to court and then it’s going to be expensive. This board is not going to pass a wind ordinance that completely prohibits wind turbines. It’s not going to happen. It’s against the law. We are going to try to pass one that is super restrictive but it still could be used by the wind companies. We are not going to vote for one that completely throws them under the bus because we don’t want to go to court.”

Anderson became increasingly passionate as he spoke.

“We got called liars last month,” he declared (referring to residents questioning when and how Spicer Group was hired by the township.) See accompanying story.

“We’ve been on this board for 20 years, me and Tom (Jeppesen), Amy’s (Laper) close to 20 years, and there’s never anybody on this board that’s lied to anybody about nothing. We got called liars to our face at the last meeting and that is crap. Nobody needs to call anybody on this board a liar. This thing about being called liars really pissed me off.

“We’ve been taking a lot of crap for nothing – for nothing,” Anderson declared. “This board and the Planning Commission is trying to do a good job and what do we get? Crap. We get accused of things, we get accused of being crooked, liars. It’s bull (expletive). We’re trying to do a good job.”

ATTORNEY SOUNDS OFF

Anderson then let the attorney take over a portion of the Dec. 1 township board meeting.

“I have Ron here tonight because I want him to explain again why the Citizens Ordinance is not going to work,” Anderson said. “I want him to tell you folks again why the Citizens Ordinance is not going to work. It’s going to cost a lot of money to do this as long as we keep having referendum threats and all this stuff. What we’re trying to do is come up with an ordinance somewhere between the Citizens Ordinance and something that’s not exclusionary.”

The Planning Commission attempted to send the so-called Citizens Ordinance to a public hearing in May; however, they voted to table that ordinance in July due to multiple issues.

On Dec. 1, attorney Redick – at Anderson’s request – proceeded to verbally take apart the Citizens Ordinance in a blunt manner.

“One thing that’s been a little troubling is that dealing with comments on the ordinance process, there’s been a very unproductive and unhealthy obsession about who is drafting the ordinance, rather than the content of it itself,” Redick said.

He referred to a list of ordinances from other townships in Michigan that was handed out at a prior Planning Commission meeting.

“It just became very clear that nobody is actually reading what the Planning Commission is actually doing because what the Planning Commission has developed is either equal to or more stringent than every single ordinance on this list that was being promoted by those in the audience,” Redick said. “So I would just recommend … actually read the ordinance that they’re reading on, rather than just levying accusations and suspicions and conspiracy theories about who is working on it and why it may be good or bad because of that. The content of it is all that really matters.”

Redick said the Citizens Ordinance was “very disorganized” and contained “70% good ideas, 20% not very good ideas and 10% illegal ideas.”

“Its format itself was completely unadoptable by the township,” he said. “It was not structured or formatted in any way that was actually adoptable in the township’s zoning ordinance. This never should have been brought forward for a public hearing. Looking at the text of it itself, there was a very high number of problems. The definitions were all robbed from other ordinances in a way that some of them had no applicability of the subject matter of the Citizens Ordinance. It referred to the wrong special land use chapter of the ordinance. It contained provisions specifying that soil and groundwater had to be tested, but didn’t even include provisions on what it was supposed to be tested for. It had security provisions that made no sense in terms of requiring things being cash when other forms of security are allowed. Some things were just blatantly illegal – talking about the ability of the township to seize property in the event of non-compliance with certain decommissioning requirements, which no municipality could do.”

Redick said the Citizens Ordinance retirements for turbine heights and setbacks would “completely preclude the installation of turbines in the township.” He said the sound monitoring provisions were poorly designed and some of them made no sense (such as the ordinance calling for an Lmax standard for sound measurement, with the following sentence calling for no sound averaging – although the very purpose of an Lmax standard is sound averaging).

“So that made no sense,” he noted.

“The provisions requiring how pre-construction and post-construction sound studies were to be performed were completely lacking any adequate detail to make sure you were going to come back with data that actually shows what’s going on in the field,” he continued. “Clearly, somebody cobbled together something that they thought looked stringent and complex, didn’t really understand what they meant and threw them in an ordinance.

“I’m not trying to be hard on those who put the effort in trying to put this together because frankly, I couldn’t do this on my own,” he noted. “This is a highly technical subject matter. A layperson shouldn’t be trying to do this. You should hire outside consultants and the township properly did that.”

Redick also cautioned residents against initiating a referendum against the township’s wind ordinance when it is eventually approved.

“I could not think of a worse idea for those who are in the anti-wind camp to try to do a referendum on this ordinance thinking that that’s going to benefit your position, because if you do it, it will revert back to the 2017 ordinance that is on the books and is woefully inadequate for regulating this subject matter,” he cautioned. “If you referendum this ordinance, that’s what you’re going to get – a wind company that can do just about anything they want in this township. The alternative is much worse if you referendum it and you go back to the 2017 ordinance. Apex will be able to do just about whatever it wants.

“There’s a high likelihood that no matter what gets adopted in this case, the township is going to be sued by somebody, whether it be anti-wind, pro-wind or the applicant itself,” he concluded.

Several audience members voiced displeasure with comments made by Anderson and Redick during public comment at the end of the Dec. 1 meeting.

“Mr. Redick sat there and just called people who are not for turbines coming here conspiracy theorists and a couple other things too,” township resident Kathy Craig said. “I mean, come on. You can’t tell us not to say things and then say them back to us, it didn’t make sense. I’m upset with all the comments that were just made up there.”

“Terry, you got pretty upset and someone at some point used the word liar,” Planning Commissioner Shick added from the audience. “I will remind you I invited you to come talk to me because we had some things to discuss and I would rather they not go public and I don’t think you would either. Let me just remind you I would like you to meet with me as a Planning Commission member because I really don’t want to bring things out publicly. Before you get too upset with the name-calling, it’s gone both ways. There are some real issues and some real questions.”

[rest of article available at source]

Source:  By Elisabeth Waldon | December 13, 2021 | www.thedailynews.cc

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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