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Public meeting for county-wide industrial solar ordinance

EDITOR:

At February’s Cornell Township Board meeting, Bob Barron (Escanaba Township landowner) notified Cornell Township that he wishes to have his property annexed into Cornell so that he can install an industrial solar farm. If you’ve been following the news, you know Barron has been trying to build an industrial solar farm in Escanaba Township for several years. Having been unsuccessful thus far, Barron now wishes to become part of Cornell Township.

Barron’s proposal to install solar panels over 800 acres has torn Escanaba Township apart, much in the same manner the windmills have done to Garden. Many families and neighbors are no longer speaking to one another. Will Cornell be the next township that will be torn apart? I understand landowners in Baldwin and Maple Ridge have been approached by industrial solar firms.

Let me say here that I am a strong proponent of solar. I installed solar panels at my house in 2016 and power my house entirely with them. Cornell Township may be a good place for industrial solar development. However, I believe industrial solar farms should have guidelines for their responsible development. Unlike Escanaba Township, Cornell Township does not have its own zoning. We are one of 10 townships covered by Delta County’s zoning instead of our own.

Good news! The Delta County Planning Commission has committed to develop just such guidelines, and they are collecting public comment to help them shape an industrial solar ordinance for Delta County. They are hosting a public meeting Tuesday, April 6 from 7-8 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Delta County Service Center Board Room. Attendance is limited to 25 people maximum so if you’re interested in attending, please RSVP to County Administrator Emily DeSalvo at 789-5100.

There will also be a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, April 7 from 6-7 p.m. which you can join via video or simply by phone. And written comments are also being accepted as well. The form for submitting comments (by April 16th), along with zoom links and call-in numbers can all be found on the deltacountymi.org website. Look for “Solar Ordinance Information” under the Government tab.

These public meetings present your best opportunity to shape the future of industrial solar in Delta County so I encourage you to get involved. The ordinance will guide solar development in 10 townships in Delta County (only Escanaba, Ford River, Bark River and Masonville townships have their own zoning). Which township will be the next to be approached by a solar developer? Delta County has many abandoned farm fields which might be good candidates. Please take advantage of this opportunity to have your voice heard!

Solar power is going to grow as an important component of our energy grid so I’m grateful the Planning Commission is tackling this issue. It is my hope that an ordinance – one developed collaboratively; reflects and respects the wishes of landowners and developers; and protects the environment, can help dispel the bitter conflicts that have erupted.

Anne Okonek

Cornell

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