|Individuals Across the State Join Together to Restore Voters’ Voice in Local Issues
|DEERFIELD, Mich. – A bipartisan group of individuals from across the state today launched “Citizens for Local Choice,” a ballot committee formed to restore voters’ rights in land use decisions for industrial wind and solar operations, which were stripped away in House Bill 5120, now Public Act 233 of 2023.
|As passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the new law significantly restricts local governments from participating in the decision-making process regarding utility-scale wind and solar projects in their communities. Unless a local government abides by all of the mandates in the new law, decision-making authority now rests with the 3 member, politically appointed Michigan Public Service Commission. Eighty-seven percent of voters across Michigan support local control and this ballot initiative will give voters the voice the Legislators and the Governor ripped away.
|“We refuse to sit on the sidelines as local control gets stripped from our communities. We are committed to this effort and believe we have a real chance to rightfully restore control back into the locals’ hands,” said Norm Stephens, committee member for Citizens for Local Choice. “This will no doubt be a tough battle, but it is a battle that thousands of Michigan voters and I are ready to take on.”
|The ballot effort is a proposed initiated law to allow local units of government to retain local authority to regulate the development of solar, wind, or energy storage facilities in their jurisdictions by repealing laws that would allow the Michigan Public Service Commission to override local energy facility development decisions. If enacted, this proposal will allow local ordinances to continue to regulate setback distance, structure height, shadow flicker, and the amount of light and sound emitted by energy facilities and allow local units of government to approve and manage proposals to construct energy facilities.
|The committee is in the process of submitting language for consideration by the Board of Canvassers. Upon approval, the Committee will have 180 days to collect and submit the required 356,958 valid signatures from registered voters. The required number of signatures would need to be submitted by May 29th in order for the initiative to be placed on the November 2024 ballot; otherwise, the initiative would advance to the November 2026 ballot. Those interested in getting involved in the effort can visit www.micitizenschoice.org for more information.
|Individuals across the state share concerns about the new law and others indicate support for the ballot campaign effort:
|Senator Dan Lauwers, 25th District:
|“State takeover of renewables is extreme and far too heavy-handed. There are many different solutions that could and should be fully considered, but stripping local control effectively removes the voices of those most directly impacted from the conversation.”
|Senator Ed McBroom, 38th District, 4th generation dairy farmer in Dickinson County:
|“The law mandates 3 people, selected by the governor to guarantee affordable and reliable electricity, to override scientific and local preferences on land use so our monopoly utilities and billion dollar renewable companies can do their projects anywhere they drop a huge pile of government money. It is an astounding journey into foolish government determinism that reeks of elitism and crony capitalism. Far from protecting agriculture, it creates a dangerous scenario where farmers will have leased land swept away from them by government subsidized leases that will cripple their remaining operations from loss of ground and the infrastructure of the ag economy. No alternative outcome can be possible when targeting over 340,000 acres of our state’s second largest industry- agriculture- and its greatest asset: land.”
|Representative Dave Prestin, 108th District, serving Menominee, Delta, Schoolcraft, Luce, Chippewa, and Mackinac counties:
|“For nine years, I served on the Alger-Delta Electric Cooperative board, including helping lead the cooperative through a period of transition where I had to dive deep on what exactly it takes to deliver power to our communities. I also served two terms as a county commissioner, where I learned that local governments know better than the state at solving local issues. Zoning is, and should remain, a local issue. Local governments know their communities better than any unelected Lansing bureaucrat, and they especially know better than the three members of the Michigan Public Service Commission.
|From my time so far in Lansing, I can tell you that they will have to use the MPSC to stomp out local resistance to green energy projects in rural communities. Every conversation I have with my neighbors, every meeting I attend with the people who will deal with the consequences of this energy policy, and every townhall meeting I attend I hear the same thing: we can’t survive this. We won’t be ignored as the future of our communities get set on the back burner so special interests can harvest federal dollars. For the future of our U.P. and Michigan way of life, these laws must not stand.”
|Representative Pat Outman, 91st District, member of the House Energy Committee:
|“Stripping decision-making power from elected representatives to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, all in the name of pushing a green energy agenda, erodes the voting power of every citizen in Michigan. This impact is notably pronounced in our rural communities, steadfast in their opposition.”
|Doug Spade, former Democratic State Representative:
|“During my three terms as a State Representative, one of the things that both parties held sacred was that regulation of land use should rest in the hands of the folks that know their communities best and that is the people who actually live there. Renewable energy has an important role to play in Michigan but it should be developed in a way that respects the local community.”
|Dave La Montaine, Riga Township trustee, U S Marine Corps veteran and retired Deputy Sheriff:
|“I’m saddened by the state taking away local control, disrupting our lives with proposed wind and solar projects. We moved for a quiet, beautiful family life. With zoning decisions no longer local, I fear what’s next. Let’s unite and push for this initiative on the ballot.”
|Liz Masters, Supervisor of Wales Twp., St. Clair County:
|“Let’s unite to get this initiative on the November ballot and oppose any attempt to strip local control of solar and wind projects. Michigan can achieve energy development at our own pace by respecting local voices.”
|Clay Kelterborn, organic farmer, Huron County:
|“Michigan has millions of acres of State ground, industrial ground and brownfields that can host all the solar power we need. But this new legislation targets primarily prime agricultural ground. Local zoning was the tool we had to protect our agricultural resources but now that’s been taken away. We have to unite to reverse this terrible policy.”
|Kelly Ralko, former Vice Chair, Conway Twp. Planning Commission, Livingston County:
|“I support local control wholeheartedly. Decisions made that will shape the current and future planning of a community should be in the hands of the citizens who live there and to those officials they have elected, not to unelected bureaucrats in Lansing appointed by the Governor.”
|Kelly Alexander, Emmet County:
|“My family and I have been living too close to wind turbines longer than anyone else in the State of Michigan. The two turbines in Mackinaw City are next to our home and are irresponsibly sited too close. But under the new state law, they could be placed even closer than they are now. Local control of zoning is the best way to make sure someone else isn’t the next victim of corporate developers.”
|Maurie Denecker, Riga Township Planning Commissioner and multi-generational farmer:
|“In Michigan, tenant farmers contribute significantly to our crops. While utilities claim to need only a small portion of prime farmland, they overlook the economic destruction to local agriculture. Taking large swaths of land out of production hinders new and young farmers from finding affordable land. The cash offered for land rent ends up in the hands of a few corporate farms, not benefiting the local community.”
|Bob Hawkins, Swine and Crop Farmer:
|“Throughout my 73 years of life, as a farmer, we’ve been taught to protect AG ground. Local control of zoning is the best method we have to protect our farm ground, but now the legislature has taken that power away. This must be stopped.”
|Mary Jo Ernst, White River Twp., Muskegon County:
|“Zoning laws are the base of Local government, whether it is rural or urban, elected officials and residents know what is best for their community. Renewable energy is an important part of our future however the implementation should be calculated instead of the rushed hand the State has dealt. The residents of Michigan deserve a safe and solid energy plan that these new laws do not deliver.”
|Erik Benko, Sidney Twp., Trustee:
|“Zoning has long been the cornerstone of thriving communities for many reasons, but chief amongst them is it establishes expectations for future land use. Just as nobody in their right mind would build a home next to a factory and expect to recoup their investment in that home, the same rings true for industrial infrastructure. This legislation will crush the investments and dreams of countless Michigan families.”
|Melissa Lorenz, a Democrat and community activist in Montague, White River Twp., Michigan:
|“Here in White River Township, Montague, we said yes to renewables that are properly sited and placed. Our township spent the time, the money and the effort to employ a company well-versed in zoning, they solicited residents for feedback, and they did their due diligence. Our Township created a comprehensive solar ordinance that not only embraced solar, but also integrated it into the community. In the meantime, a massive utility-scale solar project threatens to decimate 6 square miles of our tiny, half-sized 15.9 square mile Township. This 1,700 acre project would have completely changed the entire character of our Lake-Michigan fronted Township, where tourist and part-year residents join our full-time residents in enjoying the current beauty. And then came Bill HB 5120-23 which took away our ability to control our own destiny. Especially as a Democrat, I find myself not supporting my party for the first time. Each community is different. Each community must be allowed to make decisions as to what serves the majority of their residents. We can have the best of both worlds with both renewables AND the maintaining of our treasured areas. BUT, HB 5120-23 does not allow the protections to do so. First, the Government classified solar and wind as “ag” uses. Then, their attempt to force residents to live amongst utility-scale wind and solar projects has resulted in those not “in the know” calling those of us “NIMBYS” who opposed industry in our backyard. Which brings me to ask the State of Michigan, why should ANYONE have to have an industrial site within feet of their residence? This Bill, now signed into law, will be a generational error of large proportions. Why did our government not take the time and do the work necessary to come up with a better strategy?”
|Joe Boogren, life-long Democrat from the U.P., 32 year Veteran, Retired USN Captain and combat veteran (Kosovo/Afghanistan/Iraq). Supervisor, Forsyth Township (MQT County):
|“Removing local control from elected officials and putting it in the hands of appointed bureaucrats is unequivocally disenfranchising every voter in MI – moreover, it is unambiguously targeted at rural communities. This legislation is un-American at its core.”
|Paid for with regulated funds by Citizens for Local Choice, P.O. Box 14309 Lansing, MI 48901