EATON COUNTY, Mich. — A petition going around Eaton County would let rural voters decide if they want fields of solar panels in their backyards.
The county recently voted to allow industrial solar development on agricultural land, but one group of concerned homeowners, Eaton County Coalition for Solar Regulation, wants the decision left up to the people.
After the Eaton County Board of Commissioners passed amendments to the zoning ordinance on March 20, the group has 30 days to come up with more than 2,000 signatures so residents can accept or reject the amendments.
The ordinance allows solar developments on all agriculturally-zoned land except in charter townships like Delta, Oneida and Windsor.
"The deer being chased out, the animals being chased out. We're a rural community and we just didn't want to see a solar array or power plant coming in where there's normally an agricultural product," said Lindsey Hoxie, a member of the coalition.
If the group gets enough signatures, residents can then vote in May to either accept or reject the amendments.
If the proposal gets on the ballot and passes, the ordinance will go back to the way it was before. But County Commissioner Jane Whitacre said that would also get rid of strict rules that solar companies have to follow right now.
"Probably the strongest language that we put in there is having an environmental impact study. We have to get sign off from the road commission, from the drain commission, from the DNR, DEQ so there's lots of people that are going to be looking at any project that gets installed," said Jane Whitacre, Eaton County Commissioner, District 6.
The county zoning commission could come up with new amendments, but Chairperson Terrance Augustine said there could be legal concerns with the changes the coalition wants to make.
Hoxie just wants the people to have a say.
"If it comes in and we lose the ordinance stays the way it is, I can look it cause i know i did my due diligence," he said.
Commissioner Whitacre said no solar companies have applied for an application.
The coalition group has until April 18th to gather the signatures and so far they've collected half of those.
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