This township is nearing its third year of working on a wind and solar ordinance.
The Bloomer Township Planning Commission started working on wind and solar in the spring of 2019, according to meeting minutes, and the work appears to be headed into this spring.
Planning Commission Chairman Doug Proctor provided a brief update on the drafted ordinances during Tuesday evening’s meeting. All seven planners were present – Proctor, Secretary Tara Chapko, who is also a township board trustee, John Dennis, Ed Hagerman, Craig Keiffer, Mark Ryan and Gail Witter – along with two other township officials, three residents (two of whom were present for a matter unrelated to wind or solar) and a Daily News reporter.
The Planning Commission has been working with their attorney, Bill Fahey of Okemos-based law firm Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes, to tweak wind and solar language throughout last year, which has continued into this year. Most recently, Fahey made the turbine noise limits more restrictive at the request of the Planning Commission – reducing them from 50 decibels for participating properties to 45 decibels, and from 45 decibels for non-participating properties to 40 decibels, according to Proctor.
“We don’t want to get into lawsuits and we don’t want to get into legal matters with this stuff,” Proctor said. “(Fahey) said if you want to make this more restrictive, just lower that decibel.”
Proctor said Fahey described 40 decibels as “similar to the sound of a library.”
“I’d say that’s pretty quiet for non-participating (properties),” Proctor noted. “(Fahey) said ‘your sounds are pretty restrictive,’ which was what we wanted.”
Proctor also reported that while planners had wanted Aircraft Detection Lighting System (ADLS) language included in the wind ordinance, Fahey said a township can’t require this as it’s mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alone.
“The FAA determines whether wind development can utilize that so (Fahey) said in short, it’s not something you can make mandatory because it has to go through the FAA and they’ll decide whether it can be utilized in that area,” Proctor said. “You can’t write it into your zoning that it’s mandatory. Legally, you can’t do it, I guess.”
Lastly, Proctor said that Montcalm County Commissioner Michael Beach of Carson City had given him some feedback on the pending solar ordinance on behalf of the Montcalm County Planning Commission; however, the Daily News clarified with Beach and Montcalm County Planning Commission S. Michael Scott on Wednesday that the county Planning Commission has not yet met to review Bloomer Township’s wind and solar ordinances, as the township is still working on the ordinances.
The Bloomer Township Board was set to vote on adopting the new wind and solar ordinances in January 2021, but they voted to table them based on concerns of future litigation and sent it back to the Planning Commission.
“I don’t want to go to a public hearing until the (township) board is on board and has a chance to look at it,” Proctor said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m not going to a public hearing again until we know that we have what we want. If it’s restrictive, it’s restrictive – that’s fine, that’s what the board is looking for, that’s our general feeling for it.
“I really want to get this thing taken care of pretty soon,” he added. “I just want to get an ordinance together. Keep in mind, even when the ordinance is put together, it’s a special use permit, it still requires approval. It’s guidelines, it’s not saying ‘come on in,’ it’s just guidelines. We still have the right to say no. Even though we’re doing guidelines, it doesn’t mean we have to say yes.”
Proctor added that while he didn’t know of any Apex Clean Energy officials contacting any local officials about a proposed wind turbine project, Apex did contact Township Clerk Sharon Miller to ask if they could rent Bloomer Township Hall.
“We don’t rent our hall out, so that was easy enough for them to tell them no,” Proctor said.
Proctor plans to update the township board on the pending wind/solar ordinance during the township board’s next regular meeting, which is 7 p.m. on Monday (the regular meeting time has been moved up from 8 p.m. during the winter months).
The Planning Commission will next meet at 7 p.m. on March 8.
A CLOSER LOOK
Bloomer Township’s solar ordinance as drafted (not yet approved) calls for:
• Large solar arrays limited to 15 feet in height with other components limited to 35 feet in height.
• Large solar arrays must be located on 10 acres or more and are exempt from maximum lot coverage limitations.
• Large solar arrays must have setbacks of 100 feet from all non-participating property boundaries.
• Large solar array sound is limited to 50 decibels as measured at the outside perimeter of the project and may not be exceeded for more than 6 minutes (L10) in any hour of the day.
Bloomer Township’s wind parks ordinance as drafted (not yet approved) calls for:
• Large wind turbine height limited to 500 feet including the blade in vertical position; however, the township board may approve a turbine height greater than 500 feet if the applicant clearly demonstrates that such greater height would be in the interest of persons and properties within and surrounding the wind park.
• Large turbine setbacks of 2,000 feet from non-participating property, unless the township board otherwise expressly provides in a special use permit.
• Large turbine sound limited to 45 decibels for participating properties and 40 decibels for non-participating properties.
• Large turbine shadow flicker limited to 30 hours per year.
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