Township faces solar farming conundrum


Sign on Ford Highway opposes solar farming in township. Photo by Jim Lincoln.

The formerly close-knit community of Macon Township has been sharply divided regarding the solar farm planned by Mustang Mile, LLC and Consumers Energy Company, resulting in a recall election that displaced two longtime township servants. According to township resident Clayton Brown, a social media campaign by solar farm opponents has spread misinformation and further alienated neighbors from each other.

“Macon is not the same as it used to be,” he said. “It used to be everyone waved at each other, you helped your neighbors out, and now you’ve got families that have been friends for a hundred years and they don’t wave at each other because of this.”

Brown, whose family has a farm slated for a portion of the solar farm project, said that now that Dean Montrief and Joe Rine have replaced former township supervisor Lee Wagner and trustee Ed Clark, there is no one representing the property owners who are in favor of the project and would rent their land to Mustang Mile.

Brown said the township is trying to block construction of the project with a moratorium on building permits.

Former township attorney Fred Lucas said he ceased representing the township after the recall election. His work with the township board that had approved a special land use permit to allow the solar farm to move ahead, defending the board in a lawsuit filed by solar farm opponents, was in contrast to the new board’s composition. Montrief and Rine ran on a platform of “Zero Large Solar Projects,” joining Township Clerk Julia DeJonghe and Treasurer Beth DeJonghe, who voted against the project in May 2021.

Montrief was appointed chair of the planning commission in 2021, and spearheaded efforts to survey Macon Township voters to gather their views on development and growth. The survey results showed that citizens opposed solar projects in the township by a margin of nearly five to one, he said. The results on the township’s website reveal that fewer than 300 people completed the survey, less than 1/3 of the township’s voting population.

“If you look at the number of people that voted and then the people that voted that are against solar, it’s not even half of our township,” said Brown. He believes that those residents who support the solar project are just “letting the big corporations do their thing,” meaning Mustang Mile, Consumers Energy, and Ceres Group, which owns the bulk of the township farmland that would be used for solar panels. “I think the people that are actually funding the project, they’ve got to have attorneys that know what they’re doing. It can’t be their first rodeo,” he said.

Construction on the roads that will lead to solar farm sites has already begun, said Brown.

The 12 landowners that have agreed to rent their land to Mustang Mile would receive $1,000 per acre each year over the 30 years of the contract, a vast increase from the typical $150 to $250 per acre received for farming the fields, he said. He believes that not only would older farmers have the opportunity to have a retirement income, but the additional money would help farms survive and be operated without the weight of financial woes.

“They say the farmland is ruined,” he said of solar farm opponents, “but all the solar panels are is I-beams driven into the ground. Really, that’s the only ground that’s guaranteed to still be farm ground when they’re done. You can pull the I-beams and go right back to farming.” Other misinformation he listed includes the idea that eagles would think the reflections are water and would fly into the panels and die, and that the solar panels put off radioactive waves. Mustang Mile has addressed these concerns in a document on the township website.

“My strongest feeling is the right to do with your own ground what you want. My family has owned it since the ‘40s and made tons of sacrifices and worked for very little money for all these years,” Brown said. “Solar panels coming in would benefit my dad financially, for sure. If I can help him have a better retirement, that’s great. That kind of money coming in could be an incentive for our farm to keep going, versus selling out to other farmers or subdividing, or whatever.”

Montrief has said that industrial sized solar projects directly conflict with the township’s master plan and are not in harmony with the rural nature of the township, but when asked how they conflicted, he did not respond. A new master plan has been proposed.

The Herald asked Montrief the reasons for his and others’ opposition to the Mustang Mile project. He declined to answer and recommended contacting the group that is suing the township to stop the project. When The Herald reached out to ask the same question of Joe O’Neal, whom Montrief suggested, O’Neal also declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation, and referred to the case files in Lenawee County Circuit Court.

Mustang Mile has stated that adjacent property taxes will not increase due to the construction of the solar farm project, and the corporation is responsible for the increase in taxes on the parcels hosting the solar farm. If the project goes forward Mustang Mile will contribute annual, long-term, estimated tax payments of $274,938 for Macon Township, $478,867 for Lenawee County, and $1,000,69 for the State of Michigan.  


Tecumseh Herald


110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286

Email Us


Latest articles

Please Login for Premium Content