Escanaba Township sets special board meeting to discuss proposed solar energy zoning amendments

The Escanaba Township Planning Commission approved a special Escanaba Township Board meeting after hearing from residents about proposed changes to the township’s zoning ordinance.
Escanaba Township Planning Commission Public Hearing
Escanaba Township Planning Commission Public Hearing(WLUC)
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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ESCANABA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - Escanaba Township residents sounded off on proposed amendments to the township’s zoning ordinance at a meeting on Tuesday.

This comes after the Escanaba Township Planning Commission’s proposed amendments that would regulate applications for private and utility solar energy facilities. If passed, the amendments would also subject the township’s public utilities to regulations and add solar overlay zoning districts for solar panel installations to certain township properties.

Nothing was voted on at Tuesday’s meeting, which was meant for public comment. The Escanaba Township Planning Commission did, however, approve a special Escanaba Township Board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 7:00 p.m. to further discuss the proposed solar energy zoning amendments.

The township planning commission made this decision after residents were split over its proposed zoning changes.

Some residents are in support of the proposed amendments. Escanaba Township Resident and Farmer Glenn Marenger said they could allow farmers with shrinking businesses to repurpose their land for solar installations.

“A lot of us are looking for a way out because we know our farms can’t continue,” Marenger explained. “The farming community keeps shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. The soil can only be good when you have farmers that can tend it. What are we going to do, let the land sit vacant full of ugly trees and wild grass? There is a lot to think about with these proposed amendments.”

Other Escanaba Township residents were not as keen on the planning commission’s proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance. Escanaba Township Resident John Miron said possible regulations could prevent people from installing small solar panel installations on their properties. Miron said he believes the township has not been transparent about its process in coming up with the proposed zoning amendments.

“You have already come up with your solar ordinance, but it isn’t good enough now,” Miron said. “Now you are switching it and changing it to stop solar developments in this township. I think that’s wrong and I think the township planning commission and township board should be held liable for their decisions.”

In 2021, the Escanaba Township board said it would be comparing the Delta County solar ordinance to its own. Escanaba Township has been working on implementing solar overlay zoning districts since at least 2019.

The Escanaba Township Planning Commission is also in need of two members. If interested in joining, visit the township’s website for more details by clicking here.