DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – The Douglass Township supervisor apologized for a 2017 wind energy ordinance that was never properly noticed or published as multiple residents voiced their concern during Wednesday’s township board meeting.
The Douglass Township Board voted 5-0 to approve a wind ordinance on Nov. 1, 2017. According to the ordinance’s own language, “this ordinance shall become effective seven days after its publication or seven days after the publication of its provisions in a local newspaper of general circulation.”
The Daily News was unable to find that the ordinance was ever published by the township, which violates the township’s own ordinance wording, as well as the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.
“I’m curious, did you guys know 2017 didn’t exist, or that you messed it up and that it wasn’t legal?” asked township resident Melissa Bannen during public comment on Wednesday.
“Didn’t have a clue,” Supervisor Terry Anderson responded.
“OK, because I feel offended by you up there yelling at us that if we referendum this (pending new wind ordinance) it’s going to go back to 2017,” Bannen said.
“I felt a little silly because Elisabeth at the newspaper knew about it way before I did,” Anderson said. “It’s news to us and I apologize for that. I felt a little silly about it myself.”
Anderson confirmed with Bannen that she is correct that if residents choose to referendum the township’s currently pending wind ordinance after it’s approved by the township board, the township will not revert to the 2017 ordinance.
However, the township board stopped short of voting to formally rescind the 2017 ordinance, despite a request from Kay Scott of Sidney Township.
“We have an opportunity for this board to do the right thing,” Scott said. “I’m not hearing the right thing from your lawyer. Are you willing to rescind 2017 tonight by a voice vote? And if not, why not?”
Board members did not respond.
“That’s our answer,” Scott declared
The topic of the never-published ordinance dominated public comment of Wednesday’s meeting.
In response to case law cited by township attorney Ron Redick, who called the 2017 ordinance never being properly noticed or published “much ado about nothing,” Douglass Township resident Julie Weipert cited the case law of Forest Hill Energy Fowler Farms versus Bengal, Dallas and Essex townships. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against those three Clinton County townships in that lawsuit.
“This was an ordinance that was voted on and passed without a large majority of the citizens of Douglass Township being made aware,” said Weipert of the 2017 ordinance. “This is evidenced by the insufficient notice of public hearing whereas the township itself was not even identified in this notice, as well as the fact that the notice of adoption was never published at all. Ultimately, this deprived the public of the right to referendum, an action which would have been taken just as it was with the previous 2020 ordinance.
“The ordinance specifically states, ‘This ordinance shall become effective seven days after its publication or seven days after the publication of its provisions in a local newspaper of general circulation’ – an action which was never taken,” Weipert summarized.
Ben Reynolds of Douglass Township also responded to Redick’s comment to the Daily News that courts are apt to reject “technical deficiencies” if a certain amount of time has gone by.
“How long does it take for a lie to become truth?” Reynolds asked. “How long does it take a wrong to become right before nobody will contest it? Wrong is wrong. I don’t think a nickel should be spent on legal fees by the township fighting to keep that ordinance on the books. It should just go away.”
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Keith Phelps of Douglass Township called the Daily News “a tabloid” for printing a personal opinion column titled “Beware of township corruption” by Renee Smith of Evergreen Township last Saturday (the Daily News publishes a variety of opinions on its weekly Views page and anyone is welcome to submit a column).
“This article was spot on for who is really corrupt – it is the Douglass Township Energy Coalition the Montcalm County Citizens United and their supporting attorneys, plus the Daily News are the ones who are really corrupt,” Phelps said. “The Daily News will be printing the anti’s response to this meeting no later than Friday or Saturday.”
[rest of article available at source]
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