Several members in the audience demanded that the commission ask the township board to promote the concept of surveying property owners to receive a township-wide opinion on turbines. “If I lived in Montcalm Township, I would come unglued about not having a survey,” Pine Township resident Leslie Rydahl said. “It’s totally unfair, and this is not personal at all against Laurie, but Apex has endless dollars to spend on postcards, open houses, demonstrations and the citizens are left at your mercy. If you don’t put out a survey, you’re just going to have a few of us who come here month after month. That’s not fair to those who even know what’s going on yet.”
MONTCALM TOWNSHIP – Meeting for the first time since January, the Montcalm Township Planning Commission picked up where it left off previously – attempting to wrap up the township’s amended wind energy ordinance.
With Chairman Richard “Dick” Karnatz recused due to a conflict of interest and newly appointed Planning Commissioner David Jacobsen absent from his first meeting due to a personal issue, the commission’s three remaining members – Vice Chairman Jeff Dolphin, Robert “Bob” Hemmes and Township Board Liaison Jessica Shearer – spent the majority of Tuesday’s two-hour meeting making final revisions on amending the wind ordinance.
The Planning Commission has been working on amending the ordinance since August 2020, and while Dolphin said in January that the ordinance was nearly ready to be submitted to the Township Board to then subsequently be reviewed by the township’s legal counsel, that notion that had yet to come to fruition was solidified by a vote of the Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The motion, which passed unanimously, came after commissioners made two minor changes to the draft version of the ordinance.
The first change came in the form of addressing a minimum setback requirement for private turbines – as opposed to industrial turbines – changing the setback from “four times height of turbine” to “must fall within property lines.”
The second change addressed the word “adjacent” in the ordinance when referring to nonparticipating land owners when it comes to setbacks of industrial turbines on properties.
Both modifications were approved through unanimous votes.
Other highlights in the ordinance left unchanged since January include:
• Setbacks of turbines on participating properties from four times the tip height of a turbine to 1,250 feet from the nearest inhabited welling.
• Setbacks of turbines from non-participating property owners at four times the tip height of a turbine from the property line of a non-participating property owner.
• 500-foot maximum turbine height.
• No shadow flicker on any non-participating properties (with exception of waivers).
• More restrictive fencing requirements, to be in line with current security fencing ordinance requirements.
Following attorney review, Dolphin said the ordinance will likely land back in the hands of the commission for some potential final amendments.
“It’s going to go to the township board for next month and then there will probably need to be some refinement,” he said.
“It will go to the board, go to a lawyer, and come back here,” Shearer added.
During public comment, a number of residents brought forth concerns regarding the potential development of turbines in the community. Additionally, Shearer read aloud written correspondence she had received in the form of about a dozen postcards, sent to her by township residents, all in favor of Apex Clean Energy’s proposal to construct a wind farm.
However, as Shearer did not identify the names of those who sent the postcards, it was eventually revealed by Pine Township resident and Apex Clean Energy Trufant office manager Laurie Johnson that the postcards were part of a coordinated effort by Apex to have current land lease signers and supporters of wind energy reach out to their township officials.
“I’m currently working with Apex and can answer the question about the cards,” Johnson said. “The people who signed (land leases) with their property, we mailed them those, so that these people can express themselves to the board, just in writing. We did make it a little easier for them. The people that sent these cards, they are real people. They are also from people who just support the project. They are expressing their views, just like people express their views here at the meetings.”
Following this revelation, several members in the audience demanded that the commission ask the township board to promote the concept of surveying property owners to receive a township-wide opinion on turbines.
“If I lived in Montcalm Township, I would come unglued about not having a survey,” Pine Township resident Leslie Rydahl said. “It’s totally unfair, and this is not personal at all against Laurie, but Apex has endless dollars to spend on postcards, open houses, demonstrations and the citizens are left at your mercy. If you don’t put out a survey, you’re just going to have a few of us who come here month after month. That’s not fair to those who even know what’s going on yet.”
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