STANTON – The Montcalm County Planning Commission had an overall complimentary response to Belvidere Township’s proposed wind energy ordinance.
The county Planning Commission reviewed the draft ordinance on Monday, which was recommended by that township’s Planning Commission on March 8 for approval by the township board. The county Planning Commission reviews local township ordinances in an advisory capacity only.
Eight members of the county’s Planning Commission were present: Chairman S. Michael Scott, Mike Beach, Daniel Brant, Chuck Hill, Chris Marks, Lonnie Smith and Armon Withey, while Rob Spohr was absent.
“I want to compliment Belvidere Township for, number one, using a planner,” Johansen said. “I also want to compliment Don Smucker for his article that was in the Daily News concerning using a planner instead of legal to write a wind ordinance (Johansen was referring to a March 17 article titled “MSU Extension’s director emeritus criticizes Pine Township’s proposed wind amendment”).
“There are a couple points that are still restrictive, in my opinion, in Belvidere,” Johansen added. “It is certainly, in my opinion, heads above the prior two that we have reviewed here at this body (referring to wind ordinances for Sidney Township and Pine Township), which are clearly, in my opinion, aren’t manageable, they’re prohibitive.
Johansen listed four recommended changes to Belvidere Township’s ordinance:
• The township changed its turbine height from 350 feet to 550 feet, but a minimum setback from non-participating property lot lines is still four times the turbine’s tip height (2,200 feet for a 550-foot turbine).
“That’s nearly a half a mile,” Johansen noted. “You may want to reconsider that portion.”
• The township has language about shadow flicker on a public road, which Johansen said seems to be restrictive and difficult to enforce.
• The township has language about turbine fencing, which Johansen said is unnecessary since turbine access doors are locked and turbines are non-climbable from the outside. Johansen added that this may be a farmland protection issue as well.
• The township requires decommissioning to include removal of transmission collection lines at a depth of 4 feet or more, which Johansen said seems unnecessary and also a farmland protection issue.
Marks said he thought Belvidere Township should add a complaint resolution process and related funds to their ordinance, as well as require “an unreacted copy of a safety manual for the make and model of turbines.”
“There was another turbine fire yesterday in the Thumb area,” Marks said (Norm Stephens of Caro Township posted something on the Montcalm County Citizens United Facebook page on Saturday about a turbine fire in Huron County, but the link didn’t work and the Daily News was not able to find any news articles referring to a turbine fire in Michigan this year; Stephens told the Daily News on Tuesday that he deleted his post after he learned it was incorrectly posted in reference to a fire several years ago).
Withey said he thought an attorney should review Belvidere Township’s ordinance before it’s approved.
The Planning Commission then voted to submit their suggested changes to the Belvidere Township Board, which is net scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. on April 13.
Belvidere Township Planning Commission Chairwoman Betty Jo “BJ” Cogswell and member Wayne Watts were both present Monday, but neither one spoke.
Tarin Minkel of Belvidere Township was also present and she thanked the township Planning Commission for their work and for listening to many of their concerns. Minkel agreed with Marks’ suggestion that a complaint resolution process be added and with Withey’s suggestion that an attorney review the ordinance.
“We would really like to see the (township) Planning Commission and township board continue with those setback requirements and the multiple factors because of the fact that towers can vary in height,” said Minkel, referring to Johansen’s suggested changes. “There’s a few other things that we’d like to see happen, but we’re just really thankful for the (township) PC for listening and sticking with some of the decisions that they made, even though some of you may not feel that you support them the same as we do.”
Belvidere Township’s proposed wind ordinance as currently drafted limits turbine height to 550 feet with minimum setbacks of four times a turbine’s height from non-participating property lines and 1.1 times a turbine’s height from road right-of-ways (with no setback requirement for participating properties). Shadow flicker is prohibited on non-participating properties.
Turbine noise is limited to 55 decibels on the dB(A) scale as measured at the property line and 45 decibels on the dB(A) scale from the exterior of a dwelling at a non-participating parcel. The sound pressure level shall not be exceeded for more than three minutes at any hour of the day. If the ambient sound pressure level exceeds 55 decibels, the standard shall be the ambient dB(A) plus 5 decibels.
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