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City endorses communication to Federal Aviation Administration regarding wind turbine project


Director of Project Development for Apex Clean Energy Inc. Scott Hawken answers questions raised by city commission members about a progressing wind turbine project March 11 at City Hall.

City Commission decided to contact the Federal Aviation Administration regarding an already-approved Apex Clean Energy Inc. wind turbine project March 11. 

Before approving the project Jan. 31, the planning commission worked to eliminate three areas of concern, involving aircraft and pilot safety, noise and a form of light pollution called “shadow flickering,” which is caused by the shadows and reflections cast by the blades of a wind turbine.  

The wind turbine project will affect five townships across northern Isabella County. Apex Clean Energy Inc. has submitted 157 terminal locations on about 50,000 acres of privately leased property (27 of the proposed terminals are within a 5-mile radius of the Mount Pleasant Municipal Airport). 

Director of Project Development Scott Hawken said the company has specified a maximum height of 600 feet to the tip of the turbine, and the company is currently reviewing any impact the project may have on the community. Hawken assumes the project to begin construction this summer with an expected completion date of October 2020. 

The development would power 93,000 homes in Isabella County, according to the company’s website

Before individuals sites are constructed, the planning commission will review individual site plans to be sure every turbine meets certain conditions, said Tim Nieporte, director of Isabella County’s Community Development Department. 

While Mayor Will Joseph said the city is in support of wind and other alternative energies, City Manager Nancy Ridley and Mount Pleasant Municipal Airport Manager Bill Brickner listed three key concerns in their drafted comments to FAA: 

  • The airport's runway would have to be extended due to potentially steeper slope approaches. 
  • An interference with some planes' ability to utilize airport navigation 
  • Potential deflection of the variable Omni range signal, resulting in approach issues. 

"The airport ... doesn't make money and, in fact, (Mount Pleasant) is lucky to break even, so any impact on the ability for special jets to come to the airport impacts the ability for us to keep the airport open," Joseph said. "It is estimated the airport generates $8 million in revenue for the area."

At the meeting, not everyone expressed support for the project. Al Davis raised his concerns about pilot safety and visibility of the terminals to the commission. 

“Why can’t we go above and beyond for safety reasons?” he said. “If the airport is stifled, the community is stifled." 

Nonetheless, the endorsement would pass 6-0, as Commissioner Kristin LaLonde was absent. 

City of Mount Pleasant recognized as Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC) 

At the March 11 meeting, Mount Pleasant was officially certified as a RRC by Michigan Economic Corporation (MEDC). 

Mount Pleasant recently undertook several notable projects to reach certification: a new zoning ordinance, an update to the city’s economic development strategy, improvements to the development review process and production of a new brand and marketing strategy — ”Meet Here.” 

Mount Pleasant joins 30 other Michigan communities qualifying as “thoroughly prepared” as far as removing traditional barriers while planning or zoning and promoting opportunities for prospective investors. Other certified Michigan RRC communities include: Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Lansing, Traverse City, Ypsilanti and others. 

The MEDC is focused on growing Michigan’s economy as the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development, according to their website.