“We want to work with you” – Supervisor Ron Cischke
GOODLAND TWP. — A handful of people attended the Goodland Township regular meeting last week, anxious to hear what the board had to say about the solar issue that has been at the forefront of several township meetings.
Several years ago, solar company Orion began contacting select township residents about acquiring land for a potential solar farm in the township.
To date, it is believed at least 13 property owners have signed leases with the California-based company.
Many township residents were not aware the leases were being signed until several months after the fact.
Township officials say the intended area for a solar farm is in the northeast portion of the township, in the area of Brown City Road.
The leases call for $1,000 per acre, per year for a period of 25 years.
Since that time, the company presented an application to the township for a project believed to cover approximately 1,200 acres.
Once upset township residents became involved, they claim to have found more than 3,000 acres could be involved with solar, according to the Lapeer County Register of Deeds records.
The township board adopted an ordinance for solar and an ordinance for wind in 2018. An amendment has been worked on in recent weeks and months, and those attending last Tuesday’s meeting were expecting the board to take action on the matter.
However, Twp. Supervisor Ron Cischke told the group the township attorney had not presented the amendment proposal in time for the meeting.
When asked by an audience member about placing a temporary moratorium on any solar projects in the township, Cischke said, “No we aren’t going to do a moratorium. If we get the amendment back before the next meeting, we’ll just call for a special meeting and deal with it then.” Several echoed the same theme that the solar project that was proposed “benefits 13 farmers, not the entire community.”
Those in attendance at the meeting who spoke to the board brought up the fact that the State has stepped in, and by the end of next year, with the Governor’s actions, it would take away local governing power in regards to solar and wind projects.
However, it is not clear when the signed legislation would go into effect, knowing multiple legal challenges to the new bills are all but guaranteed.
The Clean Energy and Jobs Act, would strip townships of the power to regulate the installation of massive solar and wind farms throughout the state, if the bills clear all challenges.
Residents opposed to the current project, or any others that may potentially come down the road, have done homework and discovered the signed leases at the Register of Deeds and were concerned with their discovery. It was the work of a few concerned citizens that helped others become aware of the pending solar project.
Taxpayers’ concerns include the location of the proposed site, its proximity to homes, and the setbacks that determined how close the panels could be installed to neighboring properties. Another concern is environmental.
Susan Jones spoke to the board, voicing her concerns and potential health risks.
At a previous meeting she was quoted as saying, “What was most concerning to me was the health effects. We are on a well. These things are made in China without any standards and are known to contain lots of toxic chemicals…do those chemicals get into the ground water? This hasn’t been adequately studied.”
Jones and several others who are concerned and spoke to the board on the matter, encouraged the board to approve the amendment to the solar ordinance, once it is available.
The taxpayers voicing their concern say they do not want to impede the farmers’ land use rights. But, they do want to be able to influence where and how a project is done so future generations are protected and their ability to continue to enjoy their rural lifestyle and environment is sustained.
Another resident reiterated to the board they just wanted common sense restrictions in place that would prevent the solar projects from being built next to people’s homes.
They’ve also requested that solar panels be of high quality. Residents have also asked the board to consider a 500-foot setback.
Supervisor Cischke pointed out to those in attendance, the issue of solar farms and amending ordinances has been an ongoing task and nothing moves fast.
As of last week’s meeting, the township has failed to amend ordinances to address taxpayers concerns, due to delays from legal counsel.
The Clean Energy and Jobs Act battle is basically between concerned residents, large solar companies and property owners who want to collect payments for solar farms.
State delegated officials have no real incentive to consider the needs and desires of the majority of taxpayers in any township and will attempt to override restrictions set by local townships.
The Goodland Township board intends to take a “wait and see” attitude with what the state does and how potential lawsuits play out that citizens rights advocates are preparing to file against the State.
“We want to work with you that are concerned. We’re concerned too,” Cischke said. “We live here. We know you people. We are neighbors. This doesn’t need to become personal, making attacks on members of this board or any other township board. I talked to our attorney and we’re sitting tight until we know what the state’s gonna do. If it’s a matter of making small adjustments to the setbacks or other details of the ordinances, that’s fine. That’s what we hope will happen.”
It’s expected, if not before, the township attorney will be at the next regularly scheduled meeting in January.
It is hoped by both the board and concerned citizens, that a proposed solar amendment will be with him for the board to discuss and consider adopting.