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Cato Township Board tables wind ordinance amid protests  

Credit:  By Elisabeth Waldon | Daily News | July 14, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~

The Cato Township Board was expected to vote on a wind energy ordinance on Monday evening.

The township’s Planning Commission voted on June 9 to recommend the draft ordinance to the township board, so board members have been in possession of the draft for more than a month now. Planning commissioners were present Monday to answer any questions, as was the attorney who had assisted them.

However, the township board voted 4-1 to table the ordinance. The reason behind the delay is unclear, as township board members didn’t have a single question to ask the Planning Commission or the attorney about their work on the draft.

The majority of the three dozen audience members present reacted with frustration, suspicion and anger.

COUNTY CRITICISM

Before the township board voted, Planning Commission Chairman Phil Morrow made a lengthy statement about the commission’s work on the ordinance over the past year and a half.

Morrow also voiced his opinion on the Montcalm County Planning Commission, which reviewed the draft in an advisory capacity in June. John Johansen was the only member of the county Planning Commission to make any substantive comments on the draft ordinance in June – voicing concern with the minimum 1.5-mile turbine setback from lakes, streams and wetlands; the height limit of 400 feet for turbines; the requirement to bury power lines at a depth of at least 10 feet; as well as noise compliance and shadow flicker requirements.

“My opinion in reviewing his ordinance is that it is far too broad, restrictive and borders on being exclusionary,” Johansen said at the county Planning Commission meeting in June. “To me, this ordinance appears to be designed to prevent the installation of wind turbines in Cato Township.”

“Five individuals didn’t even make a comment on the ordinance,” said Morrow on Monday regarding the county Planning Commission. “I find that interesting. One commissioner made extensive comments. Sounds like to me there were two commissioners that had some comments and seven others didn’t. Do they agree with it or do they not? Kind of a weird process, in my opinion. Some other townships don’t even send their ordinances to the county. I guess they don’t have to, from what’s been said.”

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t gotten together as a group countywide and came up with something together,” Clerk Todd Lincoln noted regarding the lack of a countywide wind ordinance.

“I spent many hours trying to get the county to do such a thing,” Morrow responded. “Guess what? They didn’t want anything to do with it. They could have if they wanted to, but they don’t want to touch this with a 10 foot pole. Pretty sad that elected officials don’t want to do their job.”

Brian O’Shea, the public engagement manager for Apex Clean Energy – the Virginia-based company working to bring a wind turbine project into Montcalm County – was present on Monday and said more than 3,500 acres of land in Cato Township are signed up for the project. He added that nearly 500 landowners and farm families participating in the project countywide have “significant concerns” with the ordinance as drafted.

Apex’s Senior Development Manager Albert Jongewaard sent a June 7 email to the township board expressing concern with the draft ordinance as well.

“Based on the maps I’ve looked at, based on the wetlands, based on the ordinance, I can’t find a place in this township where a turbine could be sited,” said O’Shea, a comment which was greeted by applause and cheers from audience members who don’t want to see a single turbine within the township.

“I think it’s far too restrictive to allow any landowner who’s interested to participate,” O’Shea summarized.

‘MAKE A DECISION!’

“I had several emails over the last few days from pro-wind people,” Supervisor Larry Gilbert said before the board voted to table the ordinance. “They’re not just landowners.

“I don’t think there’s anybody on the board who doesn’t think that you haven’t done a very through job,” Gilbert told Morrow. “I appreciate the hours that you guys spent. I don’t agree with everything you’ve done.”

“I’m not so sure as a commission that we agree with everything you’ve done,” Morrow responded.

“I’m not sure I’m ready to support this,” said Gilbert of the ordinance. “How does the board feel?”

“It’s a lot of information,” Trustee Jourdan Lindsay said. “We’ve had it for a month. I would like to table it and do further review.”

Lindsay added that township board members only received the county Planning Commission’s comments on the ordinance earlier that day. Morrow disputed this by saying that at least one township board member has had the county’s feedback since June 23, and he noted that any township board members could have attended the county PC meeting in June.

Lindsay made a motion to table the ordinance.

“I don’t know why you’re tabling it,” Morrow declared. “I don’t get it. I mean we worked on this thing for a year and a half and if you haven’t followed it, if you haven’t read about it, I don’t know what the hell you’ve been doing. Make a decision!”

“I didn’t say we’re not going to make a decision, but we’re not going to make it tonight and we will not be bullied,” Gilbert responded. “I think we need to take the county’s point of view here seriously.”

The township board voted 4-1 to table the ordinance. Trustee David Behrenwald, who sits on the township’s Planning Commission and helped create the ordinance, cast the lone “no” vote.

‘I JUST FEEL RAILROADED’

Multiple residents protested the township board’s lack of action.

“Why didn’t any of you come to the public hearing (in early June)?” Planning Commissioner Brandi Clark Hubbard asked. “Nobody came to the public hearing. I don’t understand that. Who are you going to get your information from, Todd (Lincoln)? I expect a phone call. If we come back to the next meeting and you’re changing this, this and this, I wanna know why and I wanna see the research.

“I just feel railroaded here,” she said. “You’re not communicating with any of us on the PC. I worry about who you’re getting your information from, I really do. All the preparation that came into tonight’s meeting, I just like it’s such a waste. I mean I took PTO off work to prepare for this meeting.”

Township resident Pat Clark said the township board’s lack of action made her feel like a “deplorable.”

“You don’t care,” Clark declared. “You’ve got your agenda for those you do care about.

“I have worked with you, I watched your kid, I watched you grow up,” she told various township board members. “You guys have let me down. I am a voter in this community and you just threw it all away because we’re ‘deplorable.’ You are listening to one side.”

Township resident Jamie Snyder called the board’s lack of action “a slap in the face.”

“You could have come to any of the meetings, they’ve been going on for a year and a half,” Snyder said. “I have taken time off work to come to these meetings. You had a year and a half. I just don’t understand it. I’m shaking, I am so frustrated with this.

“John Johansen was one of the people that you guys got your information from,” Snyder added. “He attended an Apex party, he was a speaker there. This is not a guy you should be listening to.”

“If you guys were so concerned with the county Planning Commission, why didn’t you go?” Douglass Township resident Sheila Crooks asked. “Why didn’t you watch the video? That was just one guy’s comments (Johansen). He’s probably on the payroll because he’s going everywhere talking about how to get Apex here.”

“If you follow any of this in the Daily News, the Daily News reported on that,” Sidney Township resident Robert Scott noted regarding the county Planning Commission meeting in June. “You didn’t get anything tonight that wasn’t reported in the Daily News. Why didn’t you read that? Why didn’t you follow on that? Are you going to let one person’s comments direct what you do to this township? I hope not.”

Township resident Matt Hubbard’s voice rose as he addressed the board.

“I don’t understand why for the last year and a half none of you have followed along,” he declared. “Jourdan (Lindsay) and (Treasurer) Joyce (Grieser) came to two meetings. I don’t understand why you didn’t take it upon yourself to come to the meetings. You sit up there smug became you listen to your friends at McKenna’s (Village Restaurant in Lakeview).”

“I’ve only had this for a month,” Lindsay repeated.

Linda Reynolds of Douglass Township asked the board to reconsider tabling the draft and to vote on it, noting that the township attorney and Planning Commission members were present to answer any questions.

“We’re not going to be bullied,” Gilbert repeated.

“You want people to stop coming to meetings? The next meeting will be nuts,” Reynolds declared in response.

The next Cato Township Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Aug. 1 and will take place at the new Lakeview Village Office across the street from the Lakeview Community Center.

Source:  By Elisabeth Waldon | Daily News | July 14, 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 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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