Saline Township Votes to Increase Setback Requirements for Solar Farms
There were many township residents at the Saline Township Board meeting Tuesday evening to provide comments to the board about the proposed amendments to the township’s solar farm zoning ordinance. The ordinance currently requires a setback of 100 feet from the property line. The proposed amendment would require a 600-foot setback.
Most of the residents who spoke during public comment expressed concerns about the increase in the setback requirement. Objection ranged from concerns about the loss of property for farming, maintenance of the increased land in the new set back area, like mowing, keeping weeds under control and clearing away brush.
Jori Fox, Project Manager for Invenergy, a multinational solar energy company based in the United States, told the board that she was concerned that the increase in the setback requirements would deny some homeowners the opportunity to participate and would require Invenergy to increase the footprint of the project in the township.
As the board discussed the proposed amendment, a citizen asked the board about the proposal to increase the setback requirement. Township consulting attorney Fred Lucas answered for the board saying, “you need to ask the Planning Commission that question.”
Trustee Tom Hammond was required to abstain from all discussions and votes due to a conflict of interest. Hammond acknowledged that his property was in a business relationship with Invenergy and stood to profit from the activity.
Prior to the vote, Township Clerk Kelly Marion announced, “this has been a difficult decision for me. I am not saying that I do not support solar energy. I believe this is a project that will be going forward no matter what. I just don’t want the project to spread further into the township.”
When the votes were cast, for the first time in recent memory, the board had a split decision. Jim Marion, Robert Marion and Jennifer Zink all voted to approve the amendment. Kelly Marion voted against the amendment, while Tom Hammond abstained. The motion carried.
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN FUNDS
The board approved a motion allowing Washtenaw County to submit an application on behalf of the township for American Rescue Plan funds. Saline Township will be allocated $235,00 which can be used for improvements for broadband, utilities or repairs to culverts.
Township consulting engineer Dan Cabage reported that the developers of Andelina Farms were hoping to have both treatment facilities tested by mid-October but are running behind schedule. He said the testing of the systems should occur by the end of October. Township Supervisor Jim Marion reported that discussions between the City of Saline were ongoing and active, and that the city is “very much talking about annexing the development into the city.”
NEXT SCHEDULED MEETINGS
The next Saline Township Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, 2021, while the next Township Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday. November 10, 2021. Both meetings will start at 7 p.m. at the Saline Township Hall on Braun Road.