During public comment, Dave Meyers of Winfield Township warned that the wind ordinance would go to a referendum if the Planning Commission didn’t listen to residents’ feedback. “We are getting organized and we’re paying close attention to what you guys are saying,” he said. “I hope you’re listening close to what we’re saying. You’re falling short on a few things. Height of the towers — that’s a big deal. You guys don’t think it’s a big deal — we think it’s a big deal. You should be thinking 300 feet, four times setback, no shadow flicker on a non-participating property. Those are things that gotta be there. If you don’t, we’re just gonna referendum.
WINFIELD TOWNSHIP – The Winfield Township Planning Commission voted on Tuesday to have an attorney prepare a proposed wind energy ordinance for a public hearing, even as one of their own members warned many residents don’t support it, making a referendum seem certain.
The ordinance as currently drafted does not limit turbine height. Setbacks are set at two times a tip height from non-participating dwellings and 1.5 times a tip height or 1,320 feet from non-participating property lines (whichever is greater) and 1.1 times a tip height from roads. Sound is limited to 45 decibels from habitable structures.
“Forty-five is pretty darn quiet,” said Chairman Chris Rader regarding sound limits, a comment which resulted in laughter and scoffing from some audience members.
“Probably what some of you are talking at is 50 decibels, so thank you,” Rader told them sarcastically.
The Planning Commission also voted to create an overlay district for turbines as based on a theoretical setback map created for the township by Apex Clean Energy, which is working to build industrial wind turbines throughout Montcalm County. The overlay district creates setbacks around Indian Lake by limiting turbines to east of Bailey Road, north of Yankee Road and south of Deaner Road (meaning setbacks will range from half a mile to three miles depending on where one resides on the lake), while turbines will be setback half a mile from the water’s edge of Winfield Lake and Krampe Lake.
But it was turbine height limit – or the lack thereof – that took up much of Tuesday’s meeting discussion.
“I would think that covers the height, I don’t think you need a height number,” said Planning Commissioner Dale Ulrich regarding the current proposed turbine setbacks. “You can’t get much more protection than that, can you?”
“It makes sense to have a limit,” countered Planning Commissioner Ken Kool. “The last meeting we had, during public comment we had 18 comments – 11 from this township, seven from nearby townships. All of them want a more strict ordinance.
“It just doesn’t seem like you guys are listening to them at all,” Kool told his fellow planners. “There’s no concession, no anything, no compromise anywhere in anything. It’s like contract holders are just going to take what they want. We have a referendum on the solar ordinance already. Are we going to try to avoid that at all with the turbine ordinance or are we just going to go for what contract owners want and see where the chips fall?
“It seems like it’s our job to try to have compromise up here,” he said. “Of all those people (speaking during January’s public comment), I was impressed with how organized they were. To me it looked pretty organized and to me it looks like a referendum is a done deal the way we’re going.”
Planning Commissioner Ken Fisk agreed with Kool regarding the need to limit turbine height.
“I think if you put limits, it forces them to improve what they’re doing,” Fisk said. “If we give them the sky’s the limit, they’re probably going to take it. But if you put a restriction on it, now they have to think outside the box – how can we get the most bang for our buck, how can we engineer this thing to get the most energy out of it without going 700 or 800 feet or whatever.”
“I disagree with that because the taller you make it, the less you’re going to get,” Planning Commissioner Ben Gordon said. “The taller you make it, your setbacks are going to go way, way far so it’s going to be harder and harder for them.”
Kool suggested a “comprise” of 2.75 times setbacks and turbines limited to 450 or 500 feet in height.
“My guess is that’s maybe the only kind of thing that would pass and gave a chance at going through without it going to a referendum,” Kool said. “Otherwise, I think we’re wasting our time. There was a referendum on the solar panels. They collect those in two weeks without much work, they collect those signatures. It doesn’t take them much. Now we don’t have a solar ordinance. Things are changing. If we push it and make the whole other extreme mad and we have a referendum and everything swings the other way, we could have a Planning Commission that’s the other extreme if people get up in airs and a movement is made that changes everything across the board in this township.”
“The wind ordinance, as I see it, mostly pertains to the people that it would affect directly, and not just because you don’t want to see it,” Ulrich responded. “This wind ordinance is to protect the people where there could possibly be a project. I don’t understand where the real problem is there.”
This comment resulted in laughter and comments from audience members, to which Rader told them, “This is our meeting, now calm down.”
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the Planning Commission voted to table January’s meeting minutes after Kool pointed out that there was nothing in the minutes about January’s vote on turbine setbacks and didn’t specify that a bylaw amendment involved conflict of interest.
During public comment, Dave Meyers of Winfield Township warned that the wind ordinance would go to a referendum if the Planning Commission didn’t listen to residents’ feedback.
“We are getting organized and we’re paying close attention to what you guys are saying,” he said. “I hope you’re listening close to what we’re saying. You’re falling short on a few things. Height of the towers – that’s a big deal. You guys don’t think it’s a big deal – we think it’s a big deal. You should be thinking 300 feet, four times setback, no shadow flicker on a non-participating property. Those are things that gotta be there. If you don’t, we’re just gonna referendum.
“Be aware,” he said. “You gotta listen. You’ve gotta be listening or it just isn’t gonna happen.”
The Winfield Township Board is next scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. on March 10 (the township’s website continues to incorrectly list the meeting start time as 10:30 a.m. and also continues to list incorrect information regarding members of the Planning Commission).
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