logo
Article

Palmyra Township voters support zoning amendment restricting most utility-scale solar

The Daily Telegram|Mary Lowe|June 3, 2023
MichiganZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar

Voters in Palmyra Township overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance that restricts utility-scale solar energy installations 437-146 in Tuesday’s special election. “Utility-scale” means that the project would produce power for the electrical grid. Utilities, such as Consumers Energy or DTE Energy, purchase the power from such projects and sell it to their customers. The amendment requires setbacks of 330 feet from the property lines of adjacent neighbors and imposes sound and maximum lot coverage limits. 


PALMYRA TWP. — Voters in Palmyra Township overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance that restricts utility-scale solar energy installations 437-146 in Tuesday’s special election. 

“Utility-scale” means that the project would produce power for the electrical grid. Utilities, such as Consumers Energy or DTE Energy, purchase the power from such projects and sell it to their customers.   

The amendment requires setbacks of 330 feet from the property lines of adjacent neighbors and imposes sound and maximum lot coverage limits. 

This “yes” vote means that most utility-scale solar projects will not happen in the township because the amendment makes the solar ordinance so restrictive that most commercial solar …

... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

PALMYRA TWP. — Voters in Palmyra Township overwhelmingly supported an amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance that restricts utility-scale solar energy installations 437-146 in Tuesday’s special election. 

“Utility-scale” means that the project would produce power for the electrical grid. Utilities, such as Consumers Energy or DTE Energy, purchase the power from such projects and sell it to their customers.   

The amendment requires setbacks of 330 feet from the property lines of adjacent neighbors and imposes sound and maximum lot coverage limits. 

This “yes” vote means that most utility-scale solar projects will not happen in the township because the amendment makes the solar ordinance so restrictive that most commercial solar companies would not be able to install a viable and profitable project. The ordinance prior to the amendment had a 50-foot setback requirement and unlimited lot coverage.     

During a special meeting Nov. 15, 2022, the Palmyra Township Board voted 4-1 to approve the amendment. Supervisor Steve Pixley was the board member who voted against the changes.   

The less restrictive ordinance was the work of several planning commissions prior. This last completed ordinance was created by former planning commission chairman Pixley and his commission. The ordinance stood after a failed referendum led by Koester in 2018.  

Just the opposite of Tuesday's election, in 2018, those who voted “no” were against utility-scale solar and those who voted “yes” were for utility-scale solar.   

Current planning commission chair Deborah Comstock filed the petition to put the referendum on Tuesday’s ballot. She is a supporter of utility-scale solar projects and renewable energy reforms as well as conservation. 

She said that revenues from the taxes on a utility-scale solar project would go to area school districts, the Lenawee Intermediate School District and infrastructure projects as well as services in Palmyra.  

She said she favors solar because it is term limited, while housing construction is not, reasoning that the typical solar project lasts for 25 to 30 and that having solar on a farm means there is less crop fertilization; less tilling, preventing carbon dioxide in the air; less erosion; less top-soil loss due to active farming; and less excess fertilizer running off into streams, rivers and lakes. 

Township Trustee Steve Papenhagen said he supported amending the zoning ordinance because he felt it did not reflect the priorities of the majority of constituents.   

“The amendment to the zoning ordinance should protect both the interests of the residents who are participating in the project as well as those who are not,” Papenhagen said. “The original zoning ordinance from the planning commission did not include responsible measures for decommissioning of the structures or reasonable setbacks from non-participating landowner property lines. With that plan, a non-participating home could be surrounded on three sides by solar panels and have no say in the project.”     

ESA of Maitland, Florida, has been working in Palmyra to develop a utility-scale solar farm since 2020. The project ESA would like to install would power more than 20,000 homes a year.  

“The ordinance would exclude any commercial solar facilities from being placed in the township,” Matt Drennan, senior director of development for ESA, said.  

Most U.S. solar facilities are built in rural environments because to build a solar facility open land is needed without environmental constraints as well as access to transmission infrastructure.     

The Michigan Township Association recommends that townships have ordinances in place to ensure that any requests for such developments are aligned with the community’s wants and needs and that the township work with its attorney on such matters, Jenn Fiedler, communications director for the MTA, said.   

“MTA has been involved in discussions for more than two years on legislation involving optional payment in lieu of taxes for commercial solar arrays (the bills would allow the option of exempting equipment in solar developments from state personal property tax and replacing it with an agreed-upon PILT),” Fiedler said. “Townships would likely receive only a small portion of the total taxes paid on these developments, regardless of whether or not there was a solar energy district established with a PILT or if it were taxed under state tax commission tables.”  

Trustee Mark Crane said Palmyra Township's attorney advised the board against writing an ordinance with the promise of revenue in mind.  

“I am convinced that the amendment works for both the participating and the nonparticipating landowner in the township. It will allow for some large-scale solar applications but only in certain areas and circumstances. We are a rural community and many of our residents like the idea of staying that way,” Crane said. “I know that the solar companies want large, flat sections of land to make the project profitable, but that's not my job. In my opinion this ordinance works because it gives both sides some of what they want.”  

MTA strongly opposed legislation in 2020 mandating townships provide a PILT. Several provisions were included in 2022 legislation and the new bills. Key elements for townships are to ensure local zoning authority is retained and optionality exists for both the local unit and the applicant. The legislation provides a township, city or village, with approval from the state tax commission, the option to grant a 20-year property tax exemption to a “qualified solar energy facility.” The facility instead would then pay a specific tax based on the electricity-generating capacity of the facility.  

Under the PILT program for solar facilities under consideration, each facility would have a tax rate of $7,000 per megawatt per year, which Drennan said is an increase in ESA’s current tax liabilities. 


Source:https://www.lenconnect.com/st…

Share this post
Follow Us
RSS:XMLAtomJSON
Donate
Donate
Stay Updated

We respect your privacy and never share your contact information. | LEGAL NOTICES

Contact Us

WindAction.org
Lisa Linowes, Executive Director
phone: 603.838.6588

Email contact

General Copyright Statement: Most of the sourced material posted to WindAction.org is posted according to the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law for non-commercial news reporting, education and discussion purposes. Some articles we only show excerpts, and provide links to the original published material. Any article will be removed by request from copyright owner, please send takedown requests to: info@windaction.org

© 2023 INDUSTRIAL WIND ACTION GROUP CORP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WEBSITE GENEROUSLY DONATED BY PARKERHILL TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION