April O'Neil / news@whmi.com

The Marion Township Board of Trustees held a packed Town Hall meeting on Thursday evening at Parker Middle School to discuss a proposed solar ordinance. The meeting was initially held on January 26th; however, technical difficulties and over-capacity caused the board to reschedule.

The ordinance is a result of a statewide statute requiring a minimum of 35% of Michigan’s energy consumption to be generated from renewable power sources. A well-drafted solar ordinance protects the municipality from future legal challenges, increased pressure, and a rushed timeline to approve renewable energy projects.

Attorney Michael Homier was present to answer questions. He discussed a revised map of two proposed overlay districts in Marion Township that could potentially be leased by energy companies for solar farms. One overlay is located in a small area of farmland off Coon Lake Road and the other area is located near Wright Road.

Homier said landowners have the right to turn down any proposed lease agreement if approached by an energy company. And if they were to do so, the result would be the same as with any other proposal of land use.

“We look at areas of the township where this use could be suitable under the right conditions, laid out in the zoning ordinance. There’s a rational basis for why we would select these areas. First, they are next to a substation and next to transmission lines where they (solar panels) can interconnect. And they are far away from most residential uses. Those make it ideal if you’re going to allow this type of land use.”

Most residents were still unsure how exactly the proposed solar farms would directly benefit the Marion Township community and cited a lack of written communication with the public.

The owner of the proposed overlay district off Coon Lake Rd. said there’s been very minimal communication with residents regarding the proposed ordinance. “That’s why we’re all here tonight, for people like me and others in the same situation.”

Headland Solar is proposing a large-scale project across Conway and Cohoctah Townships, spanning a total of 1,500 acres. Both of those communities currently have moratoriums in place to evaluate changes to solar ordinances.

Marion Township Board of Trustees will hold their next meeting on February 23rd. A link to the draft ordinance is provided.