Caledonia Twp. targeted for solar development

Farmland along Lyons Road in Caledonia Township could be the site of a new solar energy development if plans are approved.

CALEDONIA TWP. — The township Zoning Board of Appeals will decide in July whether or not a $30-million solar project should be built along Lyons Road, after local residents in the Crestview Heights subdivision submitted an appeal to the board earlier this month.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the residents’ case at 7 p.m. July 10 at the group’s regular meeting in the township hall.

Eric Weber and his wife Linda live near the south side of the subdivision on Woodvalley Drive. He and his neighbors are trying to make officials aware of how the project will affect area homeowners, he said.

“We’re trying to make sure we get a fair shake in regards to the setback depth and visual screening, to minimize the risk to our property value, to the pristine nature of our backyard and to the overall quality of our life,” Weber said. “Part of the reason we bought a home here was so we could look out into our backyard and see trees and nature, not an industrial framework with solar panels. We want this to be done in a responsible and respectful way for the homeowners.”

The $30-million Lyons Road Solar Project is expected to produce 26.8 megawatts of electricity when complete, which could power up to 26,000 homes. Lake Mary, Florida-based Renergetica hopes to build the project on property leased from two different landowners.

Justin Vandenbroeck, vice president of development at Renergetica, previously said the solar project is expected to create 100 to 150 construction jobs and take about nine months to complete.

He also said the solar project will generate more than $300,000 in new property taxes and operate for at least 35 years.

Vandenbroeck said his company chose Michigan primarily because of Consumers Energy’s plan to incorporate 5 gigawatts of solar energy into its grid in the next 10 years.

It would take 200 solar farms to meet that goal.

The proposed project will be split between two adjoining parcels that send power into the same Consumers Energy substation located along Monroe Road.

The first parcel, near the corner of Cornell Road and Ridgeview Drive, is 20 acres and could hold 8,064 solar panels. It will generate 2.8 megawatts of electricity at peak performance.

The second site, to the south and reaching Lyons Road, is expected to be 210 acres and include 72,000 solar panels. The site will generate 24 megawatts at peak performance.

Weber said he has reached out to Vandenbroeck, and the vice president of development will meet with him and his fellow neighbors before the end of the month.

“We’d like to sit down with him and discuss what concessions Renergetica may be willing to make. This is completely non-confrontational. We’d just like to work something out, if at all possible,” Weber said.

Renergetica received both its special use permit and site plan approval May 2, from the township planning commission. The project was expected to go before the township board Monday, but Weber and his neighbors chipped in to cover the $600 non-refundable administrative fee for an appeal.

Now, the Zoning Board of Appeals will hear the Crestview residents’ case and decide whether or not Renergetica can move forward.

“If we don’t feel our voices are being heard and respected by the township officials, we will absolutely continue the appeal process to the circuit court,” Weber said. “The officials are here to serve the public and the best interest of the community. They need to be aware of our concerns as homeowners.”

According to Weber, the main concern is the visibility of the proposed project.

“The site needs to be analyzed and studied, in terms of the visibility and site lines from our homes,” Weber said. “There are provisions in our township ordinances that call for that, and no such analysis has been done. People need to get a full understanding of what it takes in order to provide an adequate setback and trees. The homes have a higher elevation than the field, which makes visibility more of a concern. Like I said, we’re looking to reach an agreement that ensures homeowners won’t have to see an industrial framework in their backyard. We want to see trees, bushes and shrubs.”

Fellow resident Angie Montgomery said the group is looking to reach a settlement.

“What we’re really focusing on is getting our concessions. It’s pretty obvious at this point that it’s going to go through, whether we like it or not. We’re just looking for more of a barrier essentially,” Montgomery said. “I mean, ideally they would put the solar panels somewhere else, but we’re realistic. We just want to make sure we have a say in how everything is laid out.”

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