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Isabella Township rejects proposals for go-it-alone on zoning

For the second August in two years, voters in Isabella Township overwhelmingly rejected a ballot proposal that would have required the township board to leave the county’s zoning ordinance and do its own. By an even larger margin, they defeated a second ballot question that would have established a millage to pay for the new zoning.

Township zoning was voted down, 216 no votes to 74 votes in favor of the township going alone. The millage failed by 240 against it and 49 in favor. The margins were 74-26 percent and 83-17 percent. These are similar margins to 2018’s election, in which Isabella Township voters elected to stay with county zoning with 311 voters against it to 180 in favor, 63 percent to 37 percent.

The vote was seen as a referendum on the township’s participation in a windfarm being constructed in five Isabella County townships. Most townships that took ballot questions to voters last August were zoning questions in places covered by the county’s ordinance. The lone exception was in Wise Township, which already has its own zoning ordinance but which asked voters whether they wanted to require special use permits for windmills.

“Kudos to the community,” said Albert Jongewaard, development director for Apex Clean Energy. Jongewaard was at the township hall right after polls closed at 8 p.m. to get early results. He said he wasn’t surprised with the results, that Isabella Township is a tight-knit community that has come together now twice to overwhelmingly send the same message.

Township supervisor Rick Ervin was also present to get early results but had to leave to attend to family before The Morning Sun could get comment. Ervin said he will be available for comments Wednesday, and this story will be updated to add them.

The election was notable also as the first one since the adoption of Proposal 3 last November. It was also Township Clerk Hannah Fitzpatrick’s first time as clerk. She was deputy clerk last November. Tuesday’s election went smoothly, she said, and she attributed that to having experienced staff.

Tuesday’s election featured Isabella County’s first-ever voters who registered the same day as the election. Fitzpatrick also said that they had a larger-than-normal body of absentee ballots. As of Saturday, she said they’d processed approximately 100 requests.

The township saved some money that in past years it would have paid in staffing and mileage. County Clerk Minde Lux ran her end of the election right out of the township hall, bringing staff – some of whom lived nearby – there with laptops to process the results. It took longer to take the steps to establish proper custodianship of the ballots, just to pass them off to people standing in the same room, than it did to process and count the ballots.