January 23rd, 2024
We informed you all a few months ago about an attempt by the legislators in Lansing to take zoning control away from local governments (townships) for permitting of commercial wind and solar operations. Well, they passed House Bills 5120 and 5121 in a hurry last November to do exactly that.
According to the new legislation, any solar farm larger than 50 Megawatts (300-500 acres), wind farm larger than 100 Megawatts, and Energy Storage Facility with a nameplate capacity of 100 Megawatts or more can be processed by the 3 person, governor appointed Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), the same group that approves your electricity and gas rate hikes.
Legislators claim that they have included local governments in the permitting process since they "allow" those governments to process the application IF they have a "compatible" ordinance. A "compatible" ordinance is defined as an ordinance that is no more restrictive than the legislation. This isn't allowing the local government a voice, its letting the local government process the paperwork for the state. And the requirements in the legislation fall far short of protecting local communities and the landowners that may house these facilities.
Here is just a sample of the shortcomings of the state legislation and why local control is so important:
There is no liability requirement in the bill. If kids make their way onto the property and get harmed in any way, who is liable? The township? The landowner? Both?
The power company doesn't have to have a fully funded surety bond for 10 years. An entire decade can go by before the power company has to fully fund a surety bond to protect the property owner and the township. This gives the operator 9+ years to operate their facility and then walk away with a bond that is only 50% funded, leaving a mess for the township to deal with. Who then is responsible for the cleanup and returning that property back to tillable farmland? Again, the township? The landowner?
There are no training requirements for local emergency response teams.
There are no complaint resolution requirements.
There are no glare requirements to protect drivers using adjacent roadways.
There are no erosion control requirements.
There are no well water monitoring requirements to check for heavy metals in drinking water, such as lead, which are present in solar panels.
So according to the legislation, any township who puts these types of protections in their ordinance to protect the health, safety and welfare of their community is automatically disqualified from participating in the permitting process. So no, local governments do not have a voice in this process as defined by House Bills 5120 and 5121.
Here's the good news! "Citizens for Local Choice" had petition language approved on January 19th by the Michigan Board of Canvassers to put a measure on the ballot this coming November 2024 to repeal this law and put control back where it belongs according to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, back in the hands of local government. But we need to gather signatures in order to make this happen.
"Citizens for Local Choice" is looking for help in this endeavor. They are in need of county captains to help organize petitioners, they need petitioners to help get signatures, and they need people to get the word out that donations will really help this effort. This will require some effort, but many hands make light work and this is an important initiative. Think of what permitting the state may try to take over next. Gravel mining, short term rentals, cemeteries, junkyards, landfills? All of these operations serve a purpose, but local governments should decide the proper locations and compatible land uses in their community, NOT a 3 person governor appointed board that cannot be voted out of office if they don't properly represent the people. Elections should have consequences.
Learn more about the initiative here.
If you think you might like to be a county captain: email Citizens for Local Choice at email@example.com or call them at 517-268-0889.
to make contributions:
Online Contributions click here.
Mail Contributions to:
Citizens for Local Choice
P.O. Box 14309
Lansing, MI 48901
Thank you for taking action and protecting local zoning control!