The County Press

Solar panel project in Goodland Township deniedFree Access

Special land-use permit sought by Orion Renewable Energy nixed by planning commission

GOODLAND TWP. — The Goodland Township Planning Commission in a special meeting today voted 5-1 to deny a special land-use permit sought by Orion Renewable Energy to develop a solar energy facility in the township — ending prospects by the Oakland, Calif.-based company to lease more than 1,600 acres for its proposed project.

Orion sought to build an estimated $100 million,  100-megawatt solar field project that would’ve produced enough electricity to power approximately 15,000 homes and businesses — power that would’ve been sold to DTE Energy to put onto the electric grid. “We’re disappointed. We don’t agree with some of the facts they used,” said Michael Cressner, a senior project director for Orion.

Goodland planning officials had four standards the special land-use application had to meet. The majority of the officials said the large-scale project would not be in harmony with the existing agricultural and residential uses in the township. In order for the Orion’s proposed solar field project to be approved in Goodland Township, two things had to occur. A special land-use permit had to be approved, as well officials had to approve a site plan for the project. With denial of the special land-use permit, there is no need for site plan consideration and Orion’s pursuit of a solar field project in the township is over.

Orion has other solar field project applications pending in Michigan, though Cressner did not want to disclose those locations.

Opposed to the special land-permit application were Planning Commission Chairman Mike Bissett, as well as Lynne Foltz, Matt Van Dyk, Steve Groat and Roger Roszczewski. Voting “yes” for the permit was John Moenaert. Commissioner Dan Steckly had a conflict of interest with the application, and did not vote.

Foltz, who made the motion to deny the permit, stated, “It’s just too big. I don’t think it belongs in that location.” Bissett concurred, but lamented how difficult the decision to deny the permit and project was because it pitted farmers and landowners who welcomed the income long-term leases would provide, against others who thought it would destroy their view from their homes or to passersby on area roads that bordered the proposed project.

“This is definitely a bad spot for everybody on this board to be in… We live in God’s country, we’re going to know it’s there even if trees are planted to try to hide it,” said Bissett. “I don’t think it meets the ‘harmony’ standard. It’s like a bad neighbor revving a car and you have no control over that.” Moenaert commented, “This was very difficult.”

Commissioner Van Dyke and several local residents who attended Saturday’s meeting expressed thoughts that hopefully with discussions and deliberations regarding the solar project over, that township residents would not harbor ill feelings toward one another. “I’ve only been on the board for about a year and a half, and it’s been really cool to see so much passion from people in the community… Hopefully, there’s a lot of good that come out of this.”

Editor’s note: The Wednesday, June 15 edition of The County Press will include more reporting on this story.