Township board takes aim at solar energy ordinances

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Brandon Twp. —Despite new stringent oversight from Lansing, Brandon Township officials took a stand on apparent erosion of local control.
On Monday night the board of trustees voted unanimously to approve for first reading the addition of Solar definitions to Chapter 46-6 and Solar Energy Collectors to Article V, Section 46-305 in the code of Ordinances for Brandon Township.
“We have talked about this a few times, but the planning commission finally got us the first draft,” said Township Supervisor Jayson Rumball. “We are hoping to pass this so we at least have something. Even though, unfortunately, the state keeps trying to take away local control and already has. There is a potential that this could be all for naught, and it could end up going to the state and what their ordinances say, but we want to pass it anyway so we have something in place to control solar collector facilities.”
Rumball’s concern follows Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signing of a contentious clean energy bill package which passed the Michigan House on Nov. 3, and the Senate on Nov. 8, that encroach on local control in an effort to ensure renewable sources by 2040.
Area communities that established ordinances aimed at renewable solar and wind power facilities within their borders face significant opposition by shifting permit decisions from local municipalities to state control. House Bills 5120 and 5123, gave the Michigan Public Service Commission the authority, not local governments, to allow new wind and solar farms in communities statewide. The Senate Bills passed are 271, 273, 502 and 277.
The bills were signed by Whitmer on Nov. 9, 2023.
“With the passage of these game-changing bills, Michigan will become a national leader on clean energy,” said Whitmer. “These bills will help us make more clean, reliable energy right here in Michigan, creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and lowering utility costs for every Michigander by an average of $145 a year.  I am grateful for the commonsense amendments that ensure local communities can work with utilities on developing clean energy sites.”
Since that time a grass-roots organization, Citizens for Local Choice has petitions circulating to put local choice on an election ballot.
According to the Citizens for Local Choice the new law, effective November 2024, forces local communities to go through the state when it comes to the zoning authority of utility-scale wind and solar projects.
To “fast-track” the development of renewable energy projects, local voices were shut out of the conversation, according to the CLC. The ability to decide where corporations place utilities like wind turbines, solar farms, and battery storage facilities should be decided by our own communities that we know best.
“There’s a petition circulating to give solar farms back to local control, and get that on the ballot,” said Township Trustee Kathy Thurman.
“And so if anyone is interested in signing that petition please see Melanie Nivelt or Cheryl Gault”
The opposition in Brandon Township has gained the support of the Michigan Township Association, representing 1,240 townships statewide.
“The Board’s support of this initiative’s efforts aligns with the Association’s unwavering commitment to local control and the ability of communities and residents to have the final say over local decisions—especially those that have far-reaching, long-lasting and dramatic effects in a community,” wrote MTA President Pauline Bennett, Addison Township (Oakland County) clerk. “Local officials and their residents simply should not—and cannot—be silenced over local issues impacting them, their community, their quality of life—and their future.”

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