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Palmyra Twp. voters to decide zoning

PALMYRA TWP. – After three years of deliberating by the planning commission, 17 special meetings by the township board and a petition leading to all of it being put to a vote, Palmyra Township voters will go to the polls Tuesday, Aug. 7, for a referendum on the proposed zoning ordinance amendments.

Palmyra Township voters have two questions on their ballots Tuesday:

“Shall the amended Palmyra Township Zoning Ordinance adopted by the Palmyra Township Board of Trustees on September 24, 2017, be affirmed and placed in effect?”

The other question is the renewal of a 1-mill property tax through 2021 for the operation of the fire department. If approved it would raise $83,995 in its first year and owners of property with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay $100 a year toward this tax.

The zoning ordinance question carries with it the most debate.

Township Supervisor Jim Isley said the zoning ordinance revisions consider wind turbines, solar energy and adult entertainment, such as book stores, and what he called the tweaking of various parts of the zoning ordinance. He said the revisions not only had the township board’s and planning commission’s approvals but also that of the Lenawee County Planning Commission. He said the zoning ordinances hadn’t been updated for decades, so the planning commission worked hard to modernize them with the greater good of the community in mind.

He said the revisions are proposed “to protect the citizens, not restrict them.”

The township board approved the revisions by a 4-1 vote last fall. However, a petition drive led by township treasurer Matt Koester, who was the “no” vote, put them on hold and Tuesday’s vote will determine their future.

Koester said his main reasoning behind the “no” vote and circulating the petition is that he heard from many township residents who asked him, “Why do we need all of these?”

“I don’t see a need for them,” he said.

In November, former township planning commissioner Brenda Rheaume, who was part of the some of the revision process, said she believed the plan with the proposed revisions was to protect the township’s agricultural base.

However, planning commission chairman Jim Leonard said then the planners had another goal for the revisions, which was to help make the township as a whole look better than it does now.

Koester said in 2017 the revised ordinance is too restrictive in land use and will handcuff commercial development. As an example, he said there’s a greenbelt requirement for commercial properties that would make it difficult for some types of businesses, such as used car lots, to open in the township and would cut down on the parking space available for others.

Earlier this year, the township board put in place a moratorium on all commercial wind energy developments. The vote came a month after several residents approached the board asking for a moratorium, even though no firm has shown any recent interest in developing wind energy systems in the township.

The township board cannot take any stronger measures to control wind energy development in Palmyra Township because an update to the township zoning ordinance has been placed on hold until the August election. The existing zoning law remains in effect until that vote, and it has no regulations for wind energy.

Looking to Tuesday, Koester said the voters will decide.

“We will find out then,” he said.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Voting takes place at the township hall, 4276 Main St. in Palmyra.