What’s happening with Montcalm County officials is nothing short of controversial corruption regarding industrial wind turbines and solar panels.
Conflicted and biased officials have no business representing townships. Yet, these are the very people removing competent Planning Commission members and underhandedly approving unsafe ordinances.
The latter is exactly what happened in Evergreen Township: the board passed unsafe ordinances without any care for their residents. Coupled with recent events in Douglass and Winfield townships where supervisors Terry Anderson and Phyllis Larson stacked their decks with new Planning Commission members who are pro-wind and Apex Clean Energy lease signers, we the people can no longer sit on the sidelines.
I asked Evergreen Township to consider creating a safe wind ordinance. I provided many documents, links and personal horror stories to help their research, in addition to several approved Michigan ordinances that are safe for residents with no legal issues. Evergreen said they weren’t worried about turbines coming to our township since no one had approached them from Apex. They set a six-month moratorium and said they’d watch surrounding township activity. When the moratorium expired, they approved another six months (which was to last through January 2022). As of the second moratorium approval, no public discussion had been done by the board regarding anything wind or solar.
After missing two meetings, I followed up with the clerk in October, only to discover that wind and solar ordinances were fully drafted and being voted on at the Nov. 2 meeting. There were so many safety issues and discrepancies in the drafts that people from all around the county attended the meeting to voice their concerns.
Despite pleas during public comment from people begging for safer ordinances, Supervisor Andy Ross, trustees Teresa Baker and Mark Heintzelman and Clerk Kelli Greenhoe unanimously approved both ordinances. These ordinances are arguably some of the worst, if not the worst, in the entire state of Michigan with distance setbacks, sound and loopholes. These ordinances single-handedly take away the very land rights that pro-wind lies claim we are trying to do with simply asking for safe setbacks. That, ladies and gentlemen, is hypocrisy at its finest. Evergreen failed their residents miserably. As the meeting adjourned, many of us were visibly upset from this atrocity.
Two days later, Supervisor Andy Ross called me saying he felt bad that I was so upset at the meeting and added, “Maybe we got something wrong with the ordinances and I’d like to sit down with you to go over your concerns to see what we can do.” That 40-minute phone conversation gave me hope that maybe the board members did have my township’s best interest in mind, and I agreed to meet with him after the holidays.
In the meantime, Douglass Township Supervisor Terry Anderson, called out Evergreen’s actions at a meeting by saying, “Andy Ross in Evergreen caught his people with their pants down.” Terry recognized residents’ shock because, while most townships were still discussing drafted ordinances a year later, Evergreen approved theirs in record time.
On Dec. 29, I contacted Mr. Ross to schedule our meeting. He texted me saying, “Our board has been advised to leave the ordinances alone at this time.” He canceled our meeting but encouraged me to write a letter to the board addressing my concerns – the very board who ignored every piece of information I’d already presented to them.
His abrupt recant of our meeting obviously meant one of two things: Apex – which is doing its best to tear our community apart – got to Evergreen board members or, the attorney they secretly retained had no regard for residents’ safety (nothing was ever discussed about an attorney at a meeting or in any meeting notes).
Township board salaries are paid with our taxpayer dollars but the elected members are making decisions based on selfish greed. Bylaws are clear about conflict of interest: officials shouldn’t partake in decisions that will benefit them financially. Yet, this is happening in townships throughout Montcalm County, and all for personal financial gain. This alone should require the removal of all such board members. If you’re thinking about moving to townships where conflicted officials are running amok, I highly encourage you to run away with the very wind that elected township officials are trying to get rich off harvesting.
What can residents do? Get involved now – not tomorrow, not next month. We cannot afford to be at the mercy of a few who represent the minority. Stop the hypocrisy and corruption in Montcalm County – show up, stand up, and speak up at every single meeting!
Renee Smith of Evergreen Township was raised in Montcalm County and also plans to retire here. She has a bachelor’s degree in management and works full time in addition to caring for her elderly mom. In her spare time, she advocates for responsible placement of industrial wind turbines and solar panels to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all residents.
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