Solar Project Delayed, Field Trip Possible

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The project to establish a 120 megawatt solar power plant on the border of York Township and Augusta Township hit a snag, Monday evening.

Ranger Power is a green energy company that is looking to build the project for Detroit Thomas Edison, a part of the energy utility’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by the middle of the century.

“Ranger Power is doing an excellent job of being in touch with me,” Planning Commission Chair Dick Cupka said.

But ultimately, the motion to grant preliminary approval for the project did not happen, January 11.

York Township rules require that applicants provide a number of things before they can get approved for a preliminary application for a project like this. The New York based green energy company did provide things like a use description, legal description and survey drawings.

According to the York Township Zoning Ordinance, however, the approval process requires a letter from the Zoning Administrator for York Township, saying that the project is in compliance with “the existing conditions of the property and its compliance with the zoning ordinance.” Since this was not submitted on time, the planning commission cannot go forward with their initial approval certification for the project. Cupka promised to contact the Zoning Administrator, and get this resolved.

Discussion on whether or not to approve their application anyway, contingent on getting the letter from the Zoning Administrator eventually, was discussed. But ultimately, Commissioner John Hargrove convinced the rest of the commission to shelve the decision until at least the next meeting.

Ranger Power was represented at the virtual meeting by Drew Vielbig, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Vielbig did invite members of the commission to join him on a field trip to one of Ranger’s other solar installations in Shiawassee County. This 239 MW project is much further along, and could demonstrate a clear, real world example of what the project could look like if and when it is complete.

Several members of the committee expressed interest in attending the trips in small groups of up to three people, to conform with Covid-19 social distancing and safety restrictions. The trips are yet to be scheduled.

Vielbig also reiterated Ranger’s eagerness to get a public notice meeting on York Township’s schedule as quickly as possible, to communicate with neighbors of what the potential project would look like and take their feedback. York Township is already requiring the company to build a “screen” of evergreen trees to block the panels from view from its neighbors.

The motion has been tabled until the next planning commission meeting, scheduled for February 8. It has not yet been determined if a special meeting will happen. If it does happen, it will be on the fourth Monday of the month, according to the township.

The project will require approval from both York and Augusta Townships in order to happen.

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