Almer planning board recommends wind ordinance changes

Brian Schriber, Almer Township planning commission
Almer Township attorney Brian Garner (left) and Brian Schriber, of the Almer Township Planning Commission, at a recent commission meeting. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

CARO — The Almer Township Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend a series of changes to its wind ordinance after months of debate and discussion on the subject.

Almer Charter Township Planning Commission approved 5-2 -with members Jim Mantey and Jason Emery voting against – a resolution to send 10 recommended changes to the Tuscola County Planning Commission for review.

The recommendations address various aspects of wind turbine-related projects, including setbacks and the complaint resolution process.

Akron resident – and Almer Township landowner – Brian Rayl said he was pleased the commission approved the amendment and were able to accomplish something.

“It was time that they were able to take action,” said Rayl. “We’re happy about that.”

Mantey said the board passed the resolution so now it’s his job to support it. He felt some community comments were considered and others weren’t.

“Who can say no to sustainable energy? We need to as best we can to move away from fossil fuels,” he said. “If in the process my neighbors can capitalize on it, hallelujah, but it shouldn’t be to the detriment of other neighbors.”

In addition to recommending the plan be sent to Tuscola County Planning Commision, other approved motions were:

  • Setbacks: Removed non-participating properties in the item concerning turbine setbacks from property lines.
    • Added the language “in no event shall the setback be less than 1,500 feet.”
  • Decommissioning: Added “that the decommissioning plan be updated, not to exceed every five years to establish correct values for decommissioning.”
    • Removed the language “for the full term of lease” twice in the section and the financial security be in the form of a cash deposit, bank letter or performance bond.
    • Also removed the language “an annual escalator or increase based on the Federal Consumer Price Index” in the same section.
  • Complaint resolution: Changed the word “annually” in the item reporting all complaints to a “quarterly” basis.
  • Identification: Changing the word “or” to “and” in the applicant identification portion of the document that requests “the address of the property involved in the application … may include a legal description “and” parcel identifications number(s).
  • Insurance: Naming Almer Township as an additional insured for the “proof of the applicant’s liability insurance.”
  • FAA Compliance: Removed the words “minimum,”  “not” and “exceeded” from the item dealing with Federal Aviation Administration lighting.”
    • Added the phrase “complied with” to read, “the FAA lighting standards shall be complied with.”

Community members were allowed to voice their opinions before committee recommendations. Comments were limited to three minutes per speaker.

Ella Rupprecht, of the Denmark Township Zoning Board of Appeals expressed that when wind energy was presented to Denmark Township, citizen participation grew.

“Public participation and concerns led to a community of organized, concerned citizens who researched and presented informative information,” she said.

The same participation led to the cancellation of turbine contracts that could have had up to 59 turbines in Denmark Township, she added.

“I urge you to read the ordinance of Denmark Township.”

Ed Talaski of Ellington Township told the committee, “you’re obligation is to represent your citizens.”

David Russell told the board he was in favor of the windmills and has a relative with one on his property. He noted he was not disturbed by the sound living near one wouldn’t be a problem.

“You guys got a big job to decide on this,” he said. “It’s kind of surprising, now you’re having other townships coming in and telling you how to run your township … and don’t forget about the other property owners and their rights too and everything when you make that tough decision.”

Motions denied included changing turbine setback language to property lines, suggested by secretary Norman Daniels, and limiting the sound pressure of the turbines to 40 decibels at any residence without exceptions from Mantey. Daniels withdrew his motion to remove shadow flicker. Some members in the audience cried in disapproval.

“I’m more concerned to the setback of an inhabited structure,” said committee chairman Robert Braem. “I’m pro-wind.”

Mantey noted the board isn’t concerned about being pro- or anti-wind, but the health, safety and welfare of township residents.

“If we do something other than the property line than we’ve imposed on a whole homeowners and property owners somewhere, some place, that they now have this tread mark footprint — from a turbine that affects their property.

Member Brian Schriber responded, “I don’t understand how the rest of the state of Michigan and all these other turbines and all these other townships and counties can even stand to live with themselves when they’re as close as they are with what you’re just saying. They seem to be able to live with it and be happy with it.”

After the meeting, Schriber said, “I thought it was a decent respectable achievement between both sides.”

Recommendations will be sent to the Tuscola County Planning Commission, which has 30 days to review and recommend. If there is no county input after the 30-day period, the township board may choose to continue despite county comments.

If the planning commission adopts the recommendations, or when the 30 days expire, the recommended ordinance is given to the Almer Township Board for consideration.

In a July 17 meeting, the board approved 4-2 to table the amendment changes for Aug. 3, a day before the August primary.

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