No decision made on Escanaba Township zoning ordinance amendments

ESCANABA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - Escanaba Township residents filled the Escanaba Township Hall on Monday, to voice their opinions on zoning ordinance amendments that would allow the implementation of a solar farm.

That zoning ordinance failed, as there was no 'second' when a motion to accept the amendments was brought up.

Therefore, no decision has been made at this time.

The Township Board has called a special joint meeting with the Planning Commission, who approved the zoning for the solar farm at a July 22 meeting.

In early August, the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) entered an agreement with Chandler Solar Project, LLC to buy power generated from the solar farm.

The new, 125-megawatt solar energy facility would be installed on 1,800 acres of land in Escanaba Township.

Much of that land would come from farmers or land-owners with large plots of land, in exchange for money.

But other residents were in stark opposition.

"We have a beautiful farming community here and with the magnitude of the solar panels it is going to look horrible," says Escanaba Township resident Warren Bovin.

Aesthetics aside, residents expressed concerns about water contamination, land value depreciation, safety, glare, wildlife, and current zoning laws.

Residents also say they did not receive adequate notification of the matter. The Planning Commission maintains they took the proper steps.

The current proposal would place restrictions on the solar farm, ensuring that the panels could not be placed in Residential Districts one through four, and creates a buffer between the solar panels and public roads, as well as property lines.

More suggested amendments were brought forward at Monday's meeting to try to appease residents by project representatives.

UPPCO said in a press release that the project is "expected to save UPPCO's customers $20 Million in energy costs over the next 25 years..."

It also said it would create up to 200 construction jobs and pay more than $10 million in property taxes over a 25 year period.

"Well we'll continue to work with the developers, they evaluate their options going forward and our hope is that the project will proceed and we'll be able to utilize the energy that is produced here in the Upper Peninsula to serve customers in the Upper Peninsula," says Brett French, Vice President of UPPCO.

The Township Board says the joint meeting will be held once a date and time has been posted for 15 days. At that time, they will revise the proposed zoning ordinance and make necessary amendments.

That meeting will be public, but it's not clear when it will be held.