Pine Township’s updated wind ordinance moves forward
Credit: Montcalm County Planning Commission will now review | By Elisabeth Waldon | Daily News | February 26, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~
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PINE TOWNSHIP – This township has advanced its proposed wind energy ordinance update.
The Pine Township Planning Commission voted 7-0 on Feb. 14 to recommend approval of the updated ordinance to the Pine Township Board. Most residents present seemed happy with the draft, but a wind developer says it contains “significant issues.”
Before the township board votes on the draft, the Montcalm County Planning Commission will review the ordinance and offer advisory feedback to the township. The county Planning Commission is scheduled to meet at 3:30 p.m. on March 7 to review the Pine Township wind draft ordinance, as well as the proposed Belvidere Township solar ordinance. The meeting is open to the public and takes place on the third floor of the Montcalm County Administrative Building in Stanton.
Only three township residents spoke at the Pine Township Planning Commission’s Feb. 14 public hearing regarding the updated wind ordinance, along with four non-residents. Pine Township’s ordinance is largely based on Sidney Township’s ordinance which was approved in July 2021 and which Pine Township planners have been using as a template since starting work last August on updating their own wind ordinance.
“I’m grateful to you guys for actually paying attention and caring what the citizens have to say,” said township resident Dawn Sweet. “I feel like you listened to all of us and didn’t discount us and I’m grateful.”
“That went a whole lot quicker than I thought it would,” said Planning Commission Chairman Scott Millard regarding the brief feedback from residents.
‘ANYTHING BUT REASONABLE’?
A representative for Apex Clean Energy’s Montcalm Wind spoke also spoke at the public hearing. Ryan Carrigan, who also represents Apex on behalf of its Coldwater Solar project and its Kalamink Wind project, also works as a zoning administrator in Kent County’s Grattan Township and Vergennes Township.
“Ultimately we’re just disappointed that this is essentially a cut and paste job of an ordinance that restricts wind energy,” Carrigan said. “We just hope that there’s any opportunity to continue evaluating this.”
Apex’s Senior Development Manager Albert Jongewaard also provided written comments to the Planning Commission in a Feb. 9 letter: Apex letter to Pine Twp
Along with his letter, Jongewaard submitted a copy of Sidney Township’s wind ordinance, with portions highlighted in yellow indicating identical language in Pine Township’s ordinance. The majority of the 19-page document was highlighted in yellow.
Pine Township’s draft matches Sidney Township’s ordinance in that both limit noise from turbines to 40 dB(A) Leq 1 second or 50 dB(C) Leq 1 second at any time on a non-participating property; both don’t allow any shadow flicker on non-participating properties; and both require the applicant or operator to obtain and maintain insurance in the amount of at least $10 million for the wind turbines, along with many other similarities.
Pine Township’s draft differs from Sidney Township’s in that Pine requires turbine setbacks of 1,750 feet or three times the tip height (whichever is greater) from non-participating properties and road right-of-ways, while Sidney requires turbine setbacks of 3,000 feet or five times the tip height from non-participating properties and road right-of-ways.
Also, Pine is proposing to limit turbine height to 350 feet, while Sidney limits turbine height to 300 feet.
In his letter, Jongewaard noted that Pine Township’s zoning ordinance lists several goals, the first of which is: “To promote the safe, effective and efficient use of a WES (wind energy system) to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels in producing electricity.”
“The draft ordinance that has been advanced to a public hearing is anything but reasonable and, unfortunately, fails to live up to the first goal stated in the current Pine Township zoning ordnance,” Jongewaard wrote. “We have identified several significant issues that would need to be addressed in order for any part of Pine Township to be considered for wind energy development.”
The Pine Township Board is next scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on March 14.
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