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Maple Valley Township planners hire wind sound engineer, split on other issues  

Credit:  By Brandon Schreur | The Daily News | January 08, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~

Upon hearing input from some of the newest members of the Maple Valley Township Planning Commission, commissioners voted Thursday to make a number of more restrictive changes to a draft wind energy ordinance.

However, some of the proposed changes were defeated in 2-3 votes (with Planning Commissioners Dennis Dombkowski and Lee Frandsen both absent), which led to some outbursts from the public and Planning Commission Chairman Roger Becker ordering one resident to leave the meeting.

SOUND ENGINEER

The Planning Commission began the meeting by voting 4-1 to contract with Robert Rand of Rand Acoustics LLC as a sound engineer to assist with noise level portions of the ordinance.

“He has 42 years of experience doing (this type of work),” Secretary Andi Knapp said. “He’s out of Maine, but he goes all over the country doing sound engineering for different entities and different types of things.”

The Planning Commission also considered ABD Engineering & Design, which has offices in Grand Rapids. The township board previously told the Planning Commission to arrange for a consultation with one of the two firms, according to Knapp.

Planning Commissioner Ann Petersen voted against the motion to hire Rand and said she’d rather go with ABD given she thought she remembered seeing something somewhere that made her think Rand wasn’t completely third-party. The observation resulted in a verbal response from several audience members, causing Becker to give his first warning of the night.

“It’s not public opinion right now,” he said. “We’re trying to get a debate going, if you can let us debate on our own.”

“Just be fair!” said Mike Poulsen of Maple Valley Township from the audience.

“We’re trying to be,” Becker responded. “There will be no more outbursts, though, or I’ll ask you to leave.”

With Rand’s resume in front of her, Knapp said she wasn’t aware of any kind of affiliation he had with either side of the debate.

“If you look at the different projects he’s worked on across the country, he’s very knowledgable,” she said. “We’re just looking for someone to explain the terminology. I don’t think it matters.”

According to Knapp, both Rand and ABD charge $200 an hour for consultation. Upon the 4-1 vote to go with Rand, Knapp said she’d reach out to him and schedule a time to meet with him.

ORDINANCE CHANGES

Looking at the draft ordinance, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Dennis Delaney, who joined the commission last September, brought forward some changes to consider.

Commissioners agreed to approve a number of the changes without much debate – such as adding a clause stating that shadow flicker should be measured on a 24-hour period, ensuring that applicants or operators provide equipment and training for emergency situations; adding a requirement that applicants must do a study related to eagles nesting in the area; and changing the minimum ground clearance of turbine blades from 75 to 100 feet.

A number of other matters, however, resulted in split votes. Delaney’s suggestion to have the entire cement base of a tower removed rather than just down to 6 feet failed 2-2, with Petersen abstaining from voting because she didn’t “know enough about it to say yes or no.” Becker and Michelle Germain voted “no,” while Delaney and Becker voted “yes.”

Currently, the draft ordinance says applicants “must submit to the township for approval detailed plans to install an Aircraft Detection Lighting System (ADLS) that manages a proposed Wind Energy’s Facility’s lighting to reduce illumination when unnecessary unless an applicant demonstrates that an applicable local, state or federal entity prohibits use of ADLS on a particular project.”

Delaney wanted to remove the back portion of the clause in order to ensure that there weren’t a number of blinking red turbine lights going off in the township.

“This gives them (applicants) an out where, if the federal (government) says it’s not required, they can install them with the lights,” he explained. “Trust me, I just came back from out west and I was physically sick driving through Iowa. Blinking red lights as far as the eye can see.”

Becker opted to run the proposed change past the township’s attorney in order to see if that was something the township could legally do.

After a motion from Delaney to alter the verbiage failed 2-3 (with Delaney and Knapp in favor and Becker, Petersen and Germain opposed), the Planning Commission voted to send the matter onto the lawyer.

Regarding setbacks from lakes, Delaney wanted the distance changed from a half-mile to three miles. This resulted in some debate and Delaney’s motion failed 2-3.

Looking for a compromise, Knapp said she’d like to change the lake setback to either a mile or 1.5 miles. Becker was unsure if they could make a second motion on the subject due to Robert’s Rules of Order, but Knapp said they could.

“It’s still a draft, and we can still discuss it,” she said. “Quite frankly, when this (the draft ordinance) was first done, half the board wasn’t even here. I think it’s only fair to let them bring their perspective and look at it instead of saying, ‘Here, this is what we came up with. We know you’re new, but, eh, your opinion doesn’t count.’”

Knapp motioned to move the setback a mile back from the backline of residential properties on the lake – which proceeded to fail in another 2-3 vote.

Lastly, Delaney wanted to change the maximum turbine height from 500 feet to 150 feet. His motion again failed 2-3, with Becker, Peterson and Germain opposed and Delaney and Knapp in favor.

“How is that fair?” Poulsen called out from the audience.

“No more comments, or you can leave the meeting,” Becker responded.

“Compromise!” said Poulsen a moment later after Knapp recapped the results of the vote.

“You can leave,” Becker told him.

“You don’t need to leave,” someone else in the audience told Poulsen. “Sit down. Stay. Who is going to make you leave? Nobody.”

“We can call the law to have him removed, if we get any more comments …” Becker began.

“Dude, does it look like I’m leaving?” Poulsen replied as he got up and made his way to the exit. “I’m leaving!”

After finishing work on a wind ordinance, Becker said the township would also begin looking at a solar energy ordinance in the near future.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff to do as far as the wind, yet, but we do need to do the solar,” he said.

The township is also in the process of putting out a survey asking residents to answer questions on a 5-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Included in the survey are questions about wind and solar energy, among a number of other topics.

Following approximately 25 minutes of public comments, Thursday’s meeting adjourned after a little more than two hours. The Maple Valley Township Board will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Coral Community Center.

[rest of article available at source]

Source:  By Brandon Schreur | The Daily News | January 08, 2022 | 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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