Township Approves Planning Commission Recommendation Despite Concerns By Developer


The Saline Township Board took care of routine business Wednesday evening at the Saline Township Hall. This included providing approval of the FY24 road millage which will be used to support limestone treatment and maintenance of gravel roads in the township.

Andelina Farms:

Construction of new homes continues at Andelina Farms in Phase III of the development. Zoning Director Robert Marion reported that he issued six new housing permits during January and that sales continue to be brisk.

When the warmer spring weather arrives, construction will pick-up and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will complete the improvements on Michigan Avenue (US-12) around the development.

2024 Federal Poverty Guidelines:

The Board voted to approve the 2024 Federal Poverty Guidelines. These guidelines are used to assist taxpayers who cannot afford to pay their property taxes. Township Treasurer Jennifer Zink reported that to date no resident of Saline Township has qualified to use the taxpayer assistance program.

Jupiter Battery Storage Facility:

In February, the township Planning Commission approved a site plan for a lithium battery storage facility within the township. The battery energy storage facility will be located on a 54-acre property on Michigan Avenue between Dell and Schill road in the township. The facility will connect into the existing International Transmission Company (ITC) Dorset substation. The project will be located in the northeast corner of the property to be as close as possible to the substation.

The approved site plan included a 600’ setback requirement for the facility. A setback requires that the facility be at least 600’ in all directions from the edge of the property. Representatives from Jupiter Power indicated that the 600’ setback requirement is a “deal breaker for the project”, indicating that the setback would leave only one acre to build the facility on.

The Michigan State Legislature has passed Public Act 233 of 2023, which vests ultimate land use authority over these facilities in the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).  Going forward, PA 233 provides that the MPSC will issue land use approvals for utility-scale renewables. Local units of government, townships, counties, cities, and villages can retain their approval authority if their zoning ordinances are comparable with the state standards. Other state and federal permitting requirements remain in place.

The new law applies to:

  • Solar facilities with a renewable nameplate capacity of at least 50 megawatts (MW)
  • Wind facilities with a nameplate capacity of at least 100 MW
  • Battery storage facilities with a nameplate capacity of 50 MW and discharge capacity of at least 200 MWh.

The bill allows the developer of one of these facilities to obtain a certificate from the MPSC authorizing its construction. If the local unit of government has a compatible ordinance – one that is not stricter than the state requirements, the renewal energy developer will apply to the local unit instead.

The new law preempts any local ordinance, practice, regulation, rule or other ordinance that is more restrictive than the requirements in an MPSC certificate. If the local unit denies an application under its compatible ordinance, or does not approve it within 120 days, or amends its ordinance during the process, the developer may apply to the MPSC instead.

Township Fire Protection Services:

The township board voted to approve the FY24 fire services allocation. The amount the township will be required to pay increased to $243,000, from $211,000 last year. The FY24 budget does not include the Fire Marshall position, which was voted down by the Saline Area Fire Board at its February meeting.

Township consulting attorney Fred Lucas explained that the township funds fire services from a special assessment against all township residents. He advised the board that an amendment to the special assessment would be needed if the board wanted to use the assessment to cover the additional costs for fire protection services.

There was some discussion over the increase in costs. It was noted by Robert Marion that the fire department had neglected department needs for several years, and the current costs will continue to rise given the need to upgrade the department. He said that the department will require upgrades in equipment very soon. 

“A new fire truck will cost over a million dollars,” Marion said, “and the department has a truck that is at least 27 years old.”

Even though the Saline Area Fire Board rejected the request for a Fire Marshall, (with York Township being the only exception) it was accepted that the reality within the department’s service area, new home construction has risen dramatically over the last two years. The Fire Marshall's role would primarily entail ensuring that all related fire and other safety ordinances are enforced on all construction projects. Not funding this position leaves all that responsibility to the Fire Chief to be balanced among his other contractually defined responsibilities.

That is a risk that the Fire Board, with the exception of representatives from York Township, were willing to accept, stating that they did not believe a Fire Marshall position was currently justified. City of Saline Councilmember Janet Dillon was especially vocal in stating objections to the position, suggesting that if York Township needed a Fire Marshall, they should pay for it alone.

Township Road Millage:

The board approved a one-mill assessment for limestone treatment and other maintenance for gravel roads within the township. Last year’s assessment was slightly under one mill and the township collected $121,000 to support road improvements. The one-mill assessment will raise slightly more than the $121,000. Township Supervisor Jim Marion said that when he drives over dirt roads in other townships there is no comparison to the roads in Saline Township. 

“The township's commitment to keeping dirt roads repaired is evident while driving around the area,” Marion said.

The board meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m. The next township board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 13, 7 p.m. at the Saline Township Hall.

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