Jessica Mathews /

A town hall meeting has been scheduled next week in Marion Township for residents to express their views on a proposed solar ordinance.

A feisty capacity crowd, potential fire code violations, and technical difficulties resulted in last Thursday’s board meeting on the draft ordinance being adjourned. People in the lower level of the township hall couldn’t hear what was going on upstairs in the board room and many left, thinking the meeting was over.

Some expressed a desire for the board to extend its moratorium for one year to assure their rights and well-being are protected. They maintain the proposed ordinance does not protect their rights and is a “huge diversion” from the township master plan. Citing a lack of appropriate communication with the public about a potential project that would alter their landscape and lives dramatically, many requested additional time to research large-scale solar projects.

Others called for the township to work with an expert attorney to revise the current proposed ordinance, with one stating there is “deep seeded” frustration with the community. One resident commented the way information has been communicated was “shameful” and the language needs to be much stronger to protect the environment and their way of life.

The township has enacted a moratorium, which expires in March.

Supervisor Bob Hanvey commented that after listening to residents at a previous meeting, he felt there weren’t that many items people were upset about. He also clarified that the township is in charge of drafting an ordinance – telling the audience that the board is “required to listen to you but is not required to obey you”.

Hanvey also acknowledged during the meeting that perhaps the overlay area in the proposed ordinance was a little too big and might need to be changed and trimmed down a bit.

The board voted to post information about the upcoming meeting on the township website, which has since been done, and mail a postcard to everyone on the tax roll about it. It was also expressed that the township would be in communication with surrounding municipalities. A motion was eventually made to adjourn the meeting and postpone action on the agenda items.

Residents have also crowded meetings to express concerns about solar projects in nearby communities. Headland Solar is proposing a large-scale project across Conway and Cohoctah Townships. Both of those communities also have moratoriums in place to evaluate changes to solar ordinances.

The Town Hall meeting on the solar ordinance in Marion Township is scheduled for next Thursday at Parker Middle School on Wright Road from 8 to 10pm. In the case of any inclement weather, it will be rescheduled.

A copy of the draft ordinance is provided.