DOUGLASS TOWNSHIP – The Douglass Township Planning Commission meeting had only been underway for a few minutes Wednesday evening when a verbal altercation resulted in a man being ordered to leave.
The incident began when Robert Scott of Sidney Township asked Planning Commission Vice Chairwoman Tammy Sweeris whether she was aware that her father Keith Phelps and her brother Kevin Phelps had signed leases with Apex Clean Energy regarding property in Belvedere Township. Scott added that anything Sweeris says on the topic of a wind ordinance should be taken in light of the fact that a wind turbine project could benefit her family members.
Keith Phelps of Douglass Township was present and responded to Scott emphatically.
“My daughter has no idea what business I’ve got and you’re a damn liar because I do not have a lease!” Phelps declared.
Planning Commission Chairman Jack Jeppesen then ordered Phelps to leave the meeting due to the outburst.
“I get tired of being accused of that, but I do not have a lease,” said Phelps as he walked out.
Scott’s wife, Kay Scott, walked up and placed copies of the Phelps leases on the Planning Commission table. Robert Scott gave a copy of the documents to the Daily News after the meeting.
Two agreements involving Apex were recorded with the Montcalm County Register of Deeds Office on May 16 – one between Kevin and Julie Phelps and Coral Wind I (Apex) for property on W. Deaner Road in Six Lakes, and one between Keith Phelps and Kevin and Julie Phelps for the same property listing Keith as the land contract seller and Kevin and Julie as the land contract purchasers.
The Daily News clarified the issue with Keith Phelps after the meeting. Keith reiterated that he does not have a lease with Apex, but Kevin and Julie do. Keith said he has a land contact with Kevin and Julie and he had to co-sign an Apex lease document because of that. He added that the lease has a wording mistake, saying “landowner” when it should say “land contract holder” and he said he has contacted Apex to correct this mistake.
“I am the owner of the land contract and not the property, unless there is a default,” Keith told the Daily News. “It clearly states that I am the land contract seller. I will not be receiving a single dollar from it (the wind lease).”
In response to this, Scott told the Daily News the fact remains that the documents show there’s a relationship between Sweeris, her family members and Apex.
“Tammy’s family, whether it’s her brother or her father, stand to benefit if Douglass Township has a wind project,” Scott said. “My point was simply to call out the family relationship. People need to know these things.”
CARS & CATS
The lease issue wasn’t the only topic of conversation involving Keith Phelps at Wednesday’s meeting.
At the May meeting of the Douglas Township Board, Phelps stated during public comment that while some people think wind turbines are blight, he thinks junk vehicles in yards are blight and he said he was going to file a complaint with the township involving what he referred to as non-licensed/plated vehicles.
Phelps also said that while some people say turbines kill birds, the Audubon Society says cats kill more may more birds than turbines. As a result, he suggested the township only allow three pets per household (dogs or cats) and also require a $25 cat license.
“Also, any cat that’s more than 200 yards from a home should be considered a feral cat and could be euthanized by any means,” Phelps proposed.
Near the end of Wednesday’s meeting – after Phelps had been ordered to leave – township resident Christy Williams expressed anger that Phelps had allegedly reported vehicles on her Klees Road property as being without license plates. Christy and her husband Jeremy received a letter from township Zoning Administrator Dave Kelsey on May 17 stating that he had viewed unplated vehicles at the residence on May 16. Kelsey’s letter stated that the Williamses had 30 days to rectify the situation.
“Two of those vehicles are mud bog trucks and are off-road,” Christy said. “The person who made that complaint, luckily he is not here because he was trespassing on my property to find out that those vehicles did not have plates.”
Christy said her husband has lived on the township for 22 years with those two vehicles and this was the first time he received a complaint notice about them. She said 28 other people received zoning letters from the township in one day regarding unlicensed vehicles.
“There’s three dead cats in my field and I’d like to know about that too because the police are being called on that,” Christy added. “This neighbor that complained and trespassed on my property is the one that sat right up there and threatened killing cats. I’m putting it right out there right now – three dead shot cats in my horse arena that I haven’t used.
“I’ve not ever had anybody trespass on my property,” she declared. “I do have a concealed weapons permit and so does my husband and I will protect my property. Do not come on my property again, whoever complained about it and left the three dead cats on there that I just found yesterday!”
The Daily News asked Phelps after the meeting about Williams’ statements. He said he has never stepped foot on their property and he added that she should contact police regarding any dead cats.
“My cat comment was hilarious and a big joke, I wanted to give them something else to think about,” Phelps said regarding the comments he made at April’s meeting. “My property is adjacent to Stanton. I have many feral cats and have not shot a single one.”
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