Solar farm project
This letter is in response to the front page article “Solar Farm Project Scaled Down” dated Tuesday, December 16, 2020.
If readers have been following the industrial solar project in the Daily Press, they would know that there were incorrect statements reported in Tuesday’s article. For one, there is no draft solar ordinance listed on the Escanaba Township website. The illegal draft ordinance that had been listed in 2019 has been removed. The draft ordinance that Mr. Peter Moritzburke (Orion Renewable Energy) refers to, was not drafted by the township attorney and full planning commission as stated in the article. Instead, it was drafted by the attorney and the previous planning commission chairperson without community members’ knowledge. The 500 page Ad-Hoc report for the draft solar ordinance was not taken into consideration and yet Orion continues to submit a draft site plan when there is no ordinance in place.
Mr. Moritzburke also states there is a time concern for the project. Time concern for whom? Orion? Orion and the landowners who have been under lease contracts since 2019? The project timeline is not being driven by our township officials. Both the Escanaba Township Planning Commission and board continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that the proper by-law language is in place before a decision is made on the future of any industrial solar development in our community.
Furthermore, the article also states that Mr. Bob Barron, who is one of the contracted landowners, would lease property to Orion for the project. Actually, Mr. Barron and a list of additional landowners are already leasing their property to Orion and have been receiving financial compensation for their lease agreements. Public records show that these leases were signed in April of 2019.
I question the methods of Mr. Barron and Mr. Moritzburke to drive attention to an industrial-sized solar project that so many township residents have opposed since the beginning. Both men were added to the Zoom meeting agenda after the agenda had been posted to the website and submitted to the township board members. The Daily Press reported that no one spoke during public comment in opposition to the solar development during Tuesday’s virtual meeting. Had residents known that solar would be on the agenda that night, based on well-attended previous solar meetings, there would have been many community members ready to make informed public comments!
In closing, I’d like to know how Orion Renewable Energy has so much influence in our community to be able to ensure that there was a Daily Press reporter logged onto this particular Zoom meeting when most of us didn’t know solar was on the agenda? Why was Tuesday’s article so one-sided with no comments provided by either residents in attendance or comments from township officials? What in particular made this virtual township meeting front page news?