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Montcalm Township Board sending draft wind rules to planner 

Credit:  By Cory Smith | Daily News | June 10, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~

From responding to daily voicemails to locating and sorting through stacks of paperwork, the first 20 days on the job as Montcalm Township supervisor have been a learning experience for Brian Blomstrom.

Appointed last month following the resignation of former supervisor Doug Crowley, Blomstrom ran his first board meeting Wednesday evening while becoming acclimated with the nuances of the board in the process.

“I’m still learning as we go,” he said toward the start of the meeting. “Hopefully we have good meetings going forward with good dialog. At the present time, I’m sorting through the office, going through a multitude of paperwork so I can understand and gain some institutional knowledge of how the township has run at the board level. It’s a lot of reading. And while so far I have been hit with a few questions, give me a little bit of time and I’ll get back with you.”

As the meeting progressed, much of that “good dialog” would come on a subject the board has been discussing for nearly two years: Wind energy. Blomstrom provided an update on the subject of the township’s proposed amended wind energy ordinance that the Planning Commission has been working to complete since August 2020.

In April, the Planning Commission voted unanimously, with Chairman Richard “Dick” Karnatz recused due to a conflict of interest, to have the draft ordinance be reviewed by the township’s legal counsel. However, Blomstrom said he was unable to take that next step forward.

“I received an email that the Planning Commission has completed the work on the wind ordinance, but I have not received a final copy on that (draft),” Blomstrom said. “The next piece of this was to talk with Mark Eidelson, being the planner, and have him look it over, based upon the letter that was sent to him.”

While the Planning Commission voted to send the draft to the township’s attorney, Jeffrey Sluggett, the board voted to hire Eidelson to also review the ordinance in December. Two months later in February, the board voted to enter into an contract with Eidelson not to exceed $1,800 for his services.

Eidelson will be paid $1,300 for work performed to assist the Planning Commission with revising the township’s master plan, which has not been updated since 2004. Additionally, Eidelson will be paid up to $500 at a rate of $120 per hour for work specific to reviewing the draft of the amended wind ordinance.

With the Planning Commission having finished its work on the ordinance pending any recommendations from Eidelson or Sluggett, Blomstrom said the township needs to move forward.

“He (Eidelson) said he has not received anything in regard to the wind ordinance to review and I have nothing to send him,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Robert “Bob” Hemmes said he would work to get the draft in Blomstrom’s hands.

“My understanding was it was sent to you, so I’ll look into it,” he said.

Planner, attorney or both?

Before making a decision, Blomstrom opened the floor for board discussion on the question of whether the ordinance should be sent to Eidelson.

“Do we want to spend the money and send it to a planner or send it directly to the lawyer and move forward in that manner?” he asked. “As we can see, there are other things we may need to spend money on as well. Do we negate the planner and send it right to the lawyer? What is the purview of the board?”

Members of the board were split on the issue.

Treasurer Rose Hyde believed the board should send the draft to Eidelson because that was the intent of the board when it entered into a contract with him.

“I’m with Rose,” Trustee Ed Hansen agreed. “We made that motion to send this before. It’s already been approved to send it to the planner.”

However, Trustee Brian Cousineau wasn’t comfortable sending the ordinance to Eidelson.

“I feel like the board should look at the ordinance before making that decision, before sending it to anybody,” he said. “I think it’s a hard decision to make, without looking at the information in the (proposed) ordinance.”

Cousineau argued that if the board was comfortable with the ordinance, it could potentially skip the step of sending it to a planner.

“Without seeing it in front of me, me personally, I think it’s hard to make that decision,” he said.

The board reached a consensus without a vote to follow their previous vote in February and send the draft ordinance to Eidelson. Blomstrom said once he receives a copy of the draft from the Planning Commission he will send it to Eidelson for his review.

Additionally, Blomstrom said he would work with Karnatz to obtain additional items asked of Eidelson so he can also begin working on review of the township’s master plan.

Divided public

Members of the public offered divided opinions on the use of Eidelson to review the draft ordinance.

Township resident Pam Hemmes said she believed the board should have foregone sending the draft ordinance to the planner, due in part because the Planning Commission voted in April to send it to the attorney, without any mention or specification that a planner be involved.

“They asked that the current draft as it sits be sent to the lawyer,” she said. “That’s my understanding of what happened.

Hemmes’ husband, Bob Hemmes, confirmed this was the Planning Commission’s intent – to forego the planner altogether and only utilize the township attorney.

However, township resident Rick Hillman expressed his satisfaction with the board sending the draft to Eidelson.

“I would like to just support what you guys have already decided to do,” he said. “Mark Eidelson, I’ve worked with him, he is a specialist (in zoning). I don’t know that he’s a quote, ‘lawyer,’ but he’s a specialist in this type of thing and has been for a long time. I would suggest and support your vote earlier to send it to him first because the lawyer may not be a specialist in this type of thing.”

Sidney Township resident Robert Scott took issue with Eidelson following his involvement with Belvidere Township and its efforts to draft wind and solar energy ordinances.

Eidelson was hired by Belvidere Township to review its wind energy ordinance, and in doing so, made recommendations that did not sit well with some members of the public. Among the largest disagreement was Eidelson’s recommendation that Belvidere Township allows 30 hours per year of shadow flicker from a wind turbine on property over the draft ordinance’s original requirement of zero hours per year, along with a change in maximum turbine height from 500 feet to 550 feet.

Ultimately, the Belvidere Township Planning Commission ignored Eidelson’s recommendation on shadow flicker, settling on zero hours per year as was originally drafted, while going with his recommendation on maximum turbine height at 550 feet. That township’s new solar ordinance, approved in April along with a wind ordinance, is now facing a referendum filed by township resident Ken Purchase.

“In terms of Mark Eidelson, I wouldn’t rely on anything he does,” Scott said. “He worked with Belvidere Township recently and they had to schedule special meetings because he was making consistent mistakes in their solar ordinance. He does not know wind ordinances very well and did not advise Belvidere Township well with anything he provided them. I think Jeff Sluggett is the person you’re going to want to rely on.”

Source:  By Cory Smith | Daily News | June 10, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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