Town planners in Cato township hear public comment and begin updating wind ordinance
TOWNSHIP OF CATO – The Township of Cato Town Planning Commission met on Wednesday evening for the first of a series of special meetings to review its wind ordinance, which has not been updated since 2015.
President Phil Morrow, Secretary Kim Carr and planners David Behrenwald, Brandi Clark-Hubbard, David Kelsey and Quanah Striker were all in attendance (this was the first meeting of Clark-Hubbard and Striker, both recently appointed to the Commission of planning).
About three dozen residents were also in attendance, though about half of them left after public comments ended and planners began the long draft of updating the ordinance.
Updates are made to the ordinance in response to the wind turbine project proposed by Apex Clean Energy (approximately 75 wind turbines in several townships in Montcalm County). A moratorium on wind permits is currently in place in Cato Township from mid-April to mid-October.
David Lund, former chairman and town councilor of Lakeview Village Council, kicked off the audience’s public comments with a question for Planning Commission members: “If any of you can potentially pull a financial profit from this wind turbine project, have you thought about the possible consideration of conflict of interest and to refrain from making a decision on the subject? “
Planners did not answer this question.
Marcy Meyers, a Cato Township resident, business owner and real estate broker, showed a photo she took of a house with wind turbines nearby.
“If I had to list this house today with the turbines surrounding it, I would put it at around $ 185,000,” Meyers said. “If those turbines weren’t around this beautiful house – it’s probably only a few years old – this house is worth $ 300,000. This industrial project will harm our real estate values. Obviously the closer you are to them the more money you will lose, but you could be up to a mile or five miles away and you are going to lose equity. We work hard for our equity and our homes are our biggest investment for almost everyone here. “
Charlie Curtis owns property in Cato Township but resides in Kent County.
“When I bought property here, I didn’t think of a windmill,” Curtis said. “Now all we can think of are the windmills and what they’re going to do to our property and what effect they’re having on us, the neighborhood and the community. What I call industrializing our township with monstrous wind machines is really nothing less than an attack on our townships and its way of life. It’s done by million dollar, billion dollar industries. It’s a fight that we are really not qualified to wage with these kinds of financial interests and corporate entities.
“To me it’s kind of like an NFL football team lining up against sixth graders. It’s so out of proportion to what we’re really able to understand without spending tons of money on research that often times we don’t even understand at this point, ”he said. “And you can bet that long before this assault took place, it started in the minds of companies we know nothing about strategizing how to take our land for their benefit.” They’ve got Harvard educated people who put strategies in place to tell us things that we don’t even want to be discussed but who are responsive to fluid marketing and surface arguments and things like that because we don’t even want to be discussed. not know enough about it. “
Some residents appeared to have the impression that wind developers could physically encroach on or build on non-participating properties.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is government control,” said Deanna Sweet of Cato Township. “I wish I could get my own idea of what is happening on my land. If any of you were to come to my property right now, I would say it is trespassing, and that’s how I feel about the windmill people who come to my land . This is my land, I pay the taxes, we farm it and I really don’t want these guys to walk on my land and take control of it. I think it’s a bunch of bulls.
Albert Jongewaard, senior director of development at Apex, corrected this statement.
“We completely believe in private property rights and agree that people should be able to do whatever they choose to do with their property,” Jongewaard said. “We don’t have eminent domain rights, so if someone doesn’t sign a lease, we can’t touch your property.
“The reason we’re here to start is because the state of Michigan is shutting down its coal plants and we’re shutting down our nuclear facilities and it’s a reality that happens every day,” Jongewaard added. “So at some level the state has to figure out how it’s going to replace this wasted energy, how are we going to be able to generate electricity when we stop the methods of generating electricity since the 1940s?” This is happening in every state across the country. There is a transition, it’s new, but there are a lot of safeguards in place to ensure that if people don’t want to participate in the project, your property is not touched. If people decide they don’t want to participate, then we don’t have a plan. But people should have the right to choose for themselves, that’s the position we take.
REVIEW OF THE WIND ORDER
As planners began the long process of revising and updating the Township Wind Ordinance, Morrow posed one of the big questions on everyone’s mind.
“Do we want to limit the height of an LWT (large wind turbine)? He asked.
“Yes!” several members of the public said in response.
“This is not your discussion,” Morrow told members of the audience. “I’m going to ask you to shut up. This is our discussion and our time. You will have your time, it is our time.
Behrenwald suggested a height limit of 500 or 550 feet, which Morrow clarified would be the tip of the turbine blade. Clark-Hubbard said she would prefer a 500-foot limit.
“Is there some consideration with the less height, the more laps?” Carr asked. “What I’m hearing is people don’t want to be saturated with towers. Is it one or the other? Is this something to consider? I keep hearing that the proposal is 600 (high foot wind turbines) and a setback of 1300 (feet). I heard, “I don’t want to look out and see three towers.”
“My feedback to this comment would be that if we make it 500 (maximum feet high), you could do it (the backhand) two and a half times the height instead of two for the 600 (feet)”, said declared Behrenwald. “You could just do the reverse further. That would solve this problem. “
“Are you going from 120 to 500 (feet)?” It’s quite a leap forward, ”Jeremy Kwekel of Cato Township told the audience, referring to the height limits proposed for a small and a large turbine.
Morrow also proposed to add the Supervisory Control Data Acquisition (SCADA) language to the ordinance, which is a computer system that monitors the control of units in a wind power system and data regarding such things as the flickering shadows and the ice on the turbine blades.
“I think large turbines need to have this technology in our order,” Morrow said.
Clark-Hubbard also proposed adding the language of the Aircraft Detection Lighting System (ADLS) to the ordinance so that the flashing red lights on the turbines could possibly be turned off or dimmed during nighttime hours. Wind power developers must seek permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to be permitted to use ADLS.
The Planning Commission plans to discuss noise limits at its next wind ordinance meeting, as well as how to define noise, as noise is not specifically defined in the current ordinance.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Jongewaard handed out maps to the Planning Commission showing the theoretical locations of the turbines in Cato Township based on various setbacks. Morrow said Apex cards will be made available to residents.
“This does not include (the village of) Lakeview,” Jongewaard noted of Apex’s plans. “Much of the township (Cato) is not even in the potential project area.”
“Can you explain why you aren’t building at Lakeview?” Kwekel asked the audience. “Is it because of the responsibility? “
“This is the airport,” Jongewaard replied, referring to Griffith Field Airport, which belongs to the village of Lakeview.
“Good discussions, very good discussion,” Morrow summed up at the adjournment of Wednesday’s meeting. “We have made good progress. We look at the prescription, we tear it up, we are going to redo certain things. I think you will see that we are listening to you.