Douglass Township Planning Commission recommends repealing 2017 wind ordinance
Credit: By Sean Chase | Daily News | July 29, 2022 | www.thedailynews.cc ~~
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After multiple residents voiced concerns with a controversial 2017 wind energy ordinance, the Douglass Township Planning Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to recommend that the township board repeal it.
The township board will vote on the recommendation at next Wednesday’s meeting; however, a pending ordinance similar to the 2017 wind ordinance still remains to be dealt with. Even if the township board repeals the 2017 ordinance, the township board voted earlier this month to approve a principle wind energy ordinance, as well as a second version of the ordinance which includes a “savings clause” regarding the 2017 ordinance which was never properly published by the township and thus remains in dispute.
Both recently approved new ordinances are facing a referendum effort.
A notice of intent to file for referendum has been filed with the Douglass Township clerk and ballot wording must be certified by the Montcalm County Clerk’s Office by Aug. 16 in order for the referendum to appear on the November ballot.
Robert Scott of Sidney Township opened public comment by telling the Planning Commission that he emailed township attorney Ron Redick regarding the 2017 wind ordinance.
“I wrote that you have stated at recent Douglass Township meetings that the so-called supplemental ordinance will give the citizens of Douglas Township the opportunity to referendum the 2017 wind ordinance, which they were deprived of in 2017,” Scott said. “You seem to be saying that a successful referendum of the supplemental wind ordinance will also serve to rescind the 2017 wind ordinance. But there’s no way in the world that the supplemental ordinance can knock out the 2017 ordinance.”
Vice Chairwoman Tammy Sweeris responded to Scott’s comments.
“So one of the things that just came up was the request has gone to the township attorney,” Sweeris said. “No one on this panel was copied on any request. And I think Ron has told all of us numerous times that he will only address things that come from us. So by not including anyone on this panel in any request, we have no way to follow through and get the answers that you seek.”
“I’m sorry, but the common courtesy would have been for him to forward it to one of you or to let me know that,” Scott responded. “To respect another attorney, he should have done that.”
Former Planning Commission member Cindy Shick also made her thoughts known on the 2017 wind ordinance.
“Back almost a year ago, we were comparing ordinances to the 2017,” Shick said. “At that time, we did not know that it had not been properly approved, but we knew there were problems. Ron Redick stated that there were problems.”
Shick added that the 2017 ordinance provides the very township with little protection if wind companies damage property or roadways and no power to litigate against them.
“There is no provision for repair of road damage,” Shick said. “They can do all the damage they want to the road by installing something and 2017 allows for it. There is nothing to ensure the cost of decommissioning. If they die out, and the company walks away, they stay until they fall. We have no teeth to go after them.”
MASTER PLAN UPDATE
Also on Wednesday, the Planning Commission reviewed its master plan, including areas that planner Paul LeBlanc identified as potential issues. Michigan’s Planning and Enabling Act requires that townships review its master plan every five years.
LeBlanc told commissioners that the census data on the current plan is from 2010. Because many municipalities are reviewing master plans to get an idea of how their community has changed, he suggested commissioners review that information.
LeBlanc listed several areas that he saw as improvable, including one topic which continued to come up in discussion: Zoning.
“On page 14, there’s a description of existing land use,” LeBlanc said. “As I look at map number one, the existing land use map, I’m a land-use planner, so when I look at the map and see all yellow, that tells me that this is a residential community that is largely undeveloped, and that isn’t the case.”
Issues were also raised about the industrial districts zoned in the township, minimum and maximum house size, fire services and tiny homes. No action was taken by the Planning Commission on these topics, as commissioners needed more time to acclimate themselves to the issues presented.
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