The Daily News contacted AT&T and Verizon to clarify the cell phone question, and those companies referred the Daily News to CTIA, a trade association that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry. “I am not familiar with this issue and have no information to share,” said Nick Ludlum, senior vice president and chief communications officer with CTIA.
DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – A Douglass Township planning commissioner in a lengthy public statement on Wednesday claimed he’s had conversations with CMS Internet and Point Broadband employees and people in Gratiot and Isabella counties who say that wind turbines negatively affect communications towers and thus cell phone and internet service.
Todd Wells said his anonymous sources have signed agreements saying they won’t talk about these concerns publicly because they would get sued by a wind developer.
However, when contacted by the Daily News, CMS Internet officials said they were not aware of any issues regarding negative effects from turbines on communications and technology, and that employees have not signed anything agreeing to not speak about turbines.
Wells, who works in communications for Spectrum Enterprise, describes himself as a “technology expert.” During Wednesday’s meeting in which the Planning Commission continued to work on a hotly debated wind energy ordinance, Wells recounted conversations he’s had with CMS Internet, Point Broadband, people in Gratiot and Isabella counties and other parts of the state about wind turbines and communication towers.
“They are having extreme problems in those other areas,” Wells said. “They can’t even do wireless technology over there, they are not communicating with their towers back to the homes. How many of you on this board use Point Broadband as a wireless internet provider? How about your cell phone? If you put a windmill up, especially an industrial one, my sources are telling me that it will kill your cell phone communication. If we’re going to put these windmills here, it’s going to be crazy. People don’t even realize it.
“They are so upset over there on the other side of the state,” Wells continued. “CMS and Point Broadband, they don’t know what the heck they’re going to do. They’ve got thousands and thousands of customers using a wireless internet product that doesn’t hardly work now. If you have more towers, it’s not going to work at all. We’re going to have people out here in this community that aren’t going to have any type of internet. This is going to be huge.
“The reason my sources will not make a public comment on this is because their jobs are in jeopardy,” Wells claimed. “They cannot even comment in public. They couldn’t even come in this room and tell you that because if they did, they would lose their job. They had to sign agreements saying they will not talk about it because if they do, then the windmill companies will sue them for saying that they talked about it. This is serious. It’s a secret.”
Someone in the audience asked how specifically a turbine would disrupt a communications tower. Wells said it involves when a frequency tries to go from a communications tower to someone’s house.
“When the windmills are turning it puts an RF signal, which is a diffuser, and that diffuser basically destroys the wireless communication from the big (communications) tower to your house,” he said. “One day your technology is working fine at your house and then when the windmill turns it destroys your signal. One day it’s great, the next day it’s terrible. You can’t work from home. Internet is everything today and if we put a technology in here that’s these big windmills that’s going to destroy it.”
Wells noted the internet service at Douglass Township Hall currently “works for crap.”
“We’re going to destroy our little bit of internet that we got here by putting a windmill in? It doesn’t make sense,” Wells said. “This is what I found out and I wanted to make sure you’re all clear about this. You mess up my technology, I’m telling you what, these people are going to be really mad.”
Multiple audience members applauded Well’s statements.
Later on in the meeting, township planner Paul LeBlanc said “we don’t know” whether Wells’ claims were true.
“Well, we do know that,” Wells exclaimed to audience applause and cheers.
NO ‘HUSH AGREEMENTS’
The Daily News contacted CMS Internet, which has offices in Crystal Township and in Mount Pleasant, for clarification on the matter.
Owner and President Jeremy Sheets said he has no knowledge of turbines negatively impacting communications and said he and his employees haven’t signed anything agreeing not to talk about turbines.
“We’re all over Isabella and Gratiot counties with our wireless internet and we use frequencies that are similar to the cell phone industry,” Sheets said. “We have not had any reported issues that we are aware of at this time. We haven’t signed anything. The wind companies don’t have any hush agreements with us.”
CMS Director of Wireless Operations Tyler Emmons told the Daily News that a longtime customer who attended Wednesday’s Douglass Township Planning Commission meeting texted him after the meeting to clarify Wells’ statements.
“I’m happy to set the record straight when it comes to this,” Emmons said. “We used fixed wireless and on a whole, it does not have a negative impact on what we do on a daily basis. There may be a very isolated incident here or there, but I can’t definitively say that’s because of a windmill. It hasn’t affected our ability to do what we do regarding delivering fixed wireless to people in those counties. It does not concern me.
“I can’t speak for the cellular providers, but in my anecdotal experience, it doesn’t seem to have a negative impact, it doesn’t seem to have a pronounced impact on that either,” Emmons added.
Point Broadband General Manager Dan Sullivan declined to comment on or clarify the issue, telling the Daily News, “We don’t have an opinion on the matter.”
“As far as I have heard, that’s nothing I’ve ever heard in a conversation (regarding turbines negatively affecting communication towers) and I haven’t had to sign anything,” added Gae Wolf, who works for Point Broadband’s Montcalm County locations.
Point Broadband, which is based in Georgia, acquired both Casair in Stanton and Vergennes Broadband in Lowell in 2020 and opened an office in Greenville earlier this month.
The Daily News contacted AT&T and Verizon to clarify the cell phone question, and those companies referred the Daily News to CTIA, a trade association that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry.
“I am not familiar with this issue and have no information to share,” said Nick Ludlum, senior vice president and chief communications officer with CTIA.
WIND ORDINANCE TABLED
The Douglass Township Planning Commission held a public hearing on their proposed wind ordinance Wednesday but decided to table it for another special meeting, scheduled for May 25.
The Planning Commission did vote 5-0 (with Chairman Jack Jeppesen not voting and Paul Olson absent) to remove a “savings clause” section referring the township’s 2017 wind ordinance from one of the two proposed ordinances which were the focus of Wednesday’s public hearing.
The 2017 ordinance was approved by the township board in November 2020, but a public notice was not properly posted ahead of that public hearing and a public notice was never published regarding the adoption of that ordinance, meaning the 2017 ordinance is not officially on the books. Township attorney Ron Redick says the township board can vote to repeal that ordinance, but they would have to hold a public hearing first and he recommends not repealing it anyway as he believes the vague 2017 ordinance is better than having no ordinance at all.
Vice Chairwoman Tammy Sweeris requested that Spicer Group defend and explain their previous work on the sound portion of the current drafted wind ordinance. Meanwhile, Wells questioned whether Federal Aviation Administration (FFA) requirements regarding “floatplane airports” might eliminate the possibility of turbines from the township.
“My lake, Clifford Lake, is now designated a float plane airport,” Wells said. “The way it’s written is it’s five miles (setbacks). Now everything we talk about is basically a waste of time became we can’t even have an ordinance because of that. We can’t even have a windmill because of that. The government has already said you can’t have a windmill in our township. Five miles covers everything.”
Wells also questioned Redick about the attorney’s hometown of Grand Haven, which has a wind ordinance limiting turbines to 150 feet tall. Redick said he wanted to “set the record straight” about him being a member of the Grand Haven Township Board. He clarified that Grand Haven Township’s wind ordinance was created in 2009 and he didn’t join the board until early 2015. He said that township’s entire zoning ordinance was recodified in 2020, which included wind but not specifically and that no changes were made to the wind portion of the ordinance at that time.
“It is plain on its face that the 2009 version of the (Grand Haven Township) ordinance that limits turbines to 150 feet excludes completely utility-scale wind energy,” Redick said. “So the question is, do you want to adopt an ordinance that is completely exclusionary to utility scale wind energy? You’re looking at an exclusionary zoning ordinance and saying we should be exclusionary too.”
“If it’s good enough for Grand Haven, why isn’t it good enough for us?” Wells responded.
Wednesday’s meeting was a chaotic one. When speakers went just a few seconds over their three-minute allotment for public comment, Jeppesen repeatedly threatened to have a sheriff’s deputy remove them from the township hall. Audience members repeatedly interrupted the Planning Commission and attorney, and some planning commissioners interrupted the attorney as well.
“It’d be real helpful if I weren’t interrupted every time I speak,” the attorney noted at one point.
Township resident John Bailey questioned why the Planning Commission continues to table the wind ordinance.
“Let’s make some (expletive) actually happen instead of tabling it and having a nasty little scowl on your face when everybody in this room is telling what you want to put on here is crap,” Bailey said.
As the meeting ended, Planning Commission Becky Sowles told audience members, “You know you all want our respect – listen to me, listen to me, listen to me – and you sit out there and call us names and tell us ‘shut your mouth.’ A little respect on both sides does wonders to help the relationship.”
[rest of article available at source]
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