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Adams Township hosts public meeting on zoning ordinance

Representatives from the Adams Township Board of Trustees and Planning Commission, along with attorney Kevin Maki presided over a public hearing on a new zoning ordinance Tuesday evening. Maki said the township’s version clocks in at around seven pages. He says it is short, concise, easy to understand, and generally mirrors the county’s vision for the community as laid out in its Master Plan.

Officials say they are hopeful that after publishing the draft on the township’s website, they will be able to receive feedback and move the document to a vote at the planning commission and board levels this month. Adams Township passed a six month moratorium on any commercial wind or solar projects back in August. It is set to expire soon.

Planning Commission Chairperson Martha Dugdale addressed those gathered. She talked about the goal of the zoning ordinance, which she termed as an application of local control. The concept is most often applied to education, but it can be used in regard to governance in general. Dugdale defined it as the idea that decisions should be made by people closest to a problem or issue because they generally have the most information about the topic. The efforts are in response to a proposal by Rochester, Michigan based Circle Power to install a wind farm in the township.

The document would divide Adams into six potential zoning regions: Agriculture, commercial, recreation, residential, and rural residential. Any area that doesn’t fit neatly into one of those five would be placed in the Forest District.

Four people spoke in public comment. One of those was against the proposed zoning ordinance, three were in favor. Representatives from Circle Power were at the meeting, but did not make a statement. Vice President Chris Moore has since provided one in writing, which is presented in its entirety below.

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“We are proud of the Scotia Wind project, which will bring millions of dollars in new tax revenue to Adams Township, Adams Township Schools and Houghton County. Scotia Wind will also create opportunities for local contractors and provide record-breaking low-cost electricity to the region. We carefully designed the project with 3,000-foot property line setbacks, and it is almost a mile from the nearest existing home.

“We recognize the right of Adams Township residents to pursue zoning, but it must be done fairly and transparently. Unfortunately, in its rush to pass an ordinance, the Board is running roughshod over the property rights of every owner in the Township. Further, the Township seems bent on doing in six months what most townships take years to accomplish: establishing a new zoning commission, appointing commissioners, preparing a five-year master plan for future development, approving that plan, drafting a new zoning ordinance for future land uses, and approving that ordinance.

“The Adams Township Board has called this rushed zoning process ‘zoning light,’ but fails to acknowledge that it would impact not just Scotia Wind, but every property and land use in the Township. More importantly, the proposed ordinance lacks legally required provisions that protect property owners from overreaching government regulations. If approved, there would be no limits on the Township’s zoning authority.

“We urge the Board to correct course and do things the right way, to encourage economic development and provide certainty to all current and future Adams Township residents, property owners and businesses.”

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