A BOISTEROUS group of protestors made sure their feelings were known prior to the Vernon Township board meeting on Monday, Sept. 11. The group, seen waving signs reading “NO EV BATTERY MEGASITE,” was organized by Owosso Board of Education Trustee Shelly Ochodnicky and also included Durand Board of Education President Xak Zdunic, Caledonia Township Supervisor Amy Holek and members of the Woodhull and Shiawassee township boards.
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
With word spreading that a battery supplier for electric vehicles was interested in building a factory on 300 acres of farmland in the Durand area, local residents packed the Vernon Township board meeting on Monday, Sept. 11 to voice their opinions on the matter. Many stood outside Vernon Township Hall prior to the meeting, protesting the proposed development with signs that read, “NO EV BATTERY MEGASITE.” Inside, township and city residents, along with a few other interested parties, packed the building close to, or possibly exceeding, its 75-person occupancy limit.
Vernon Twp. Supervisor Bert DeClerg called the meeting to order and began by reading two prepared statements addressing the elephant in the room.
“Vernon Township is aware of concerns, primarily on social media, regarding a potential project on land formerly known as ‘Project Tim,’” DeClerg began. “The township has not received any applications for any project. On July 14, 2023, Vernon Twp. was informed by members of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership (SEDP) that two businesses had shown interest in potentially building on property in the township. According to the SEDP, the two businesses were looking for 300 acres and could potentially bring up to 3,200 jobs to the area.
“On July 17, 2023, representatives from the township met with one of the two businesses, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the SEDP and the city of Durand,” DeClerg continued. “The meeting lasted approximately an hour and provided no new information to the township. Since that time, no township official has met with any business or been provided with any information regarding a project for the site.
“The township will reserve its comments until there is an actual project, at which time, the township will follow all of its zoning guidelines and master plan to ensure that any project is appropriate for this community,” concluded DeClerg.
The supervisor shared in his second statement that, as of that morning, the business that the township met with on July 17 – which is rumored to be Factorial Energy – was no longer interested in building in Vernon Township, according to the MEDC.
The 300 acres in questions are located within the Durand-area “megasite,” which is an unidentified number of acres located in Vernon Township and the city of Durand, much of which is privately owned. The boundaries of the megasite have not been publicly defined by local officials, but the property is located north of Lansing Road and south of I-69, and it stretches along both sides of Durand Road to the west. The eastern boundary is not as easy to pin down.
More than ten citizens spoke during the meeting, raising a number of concerns. Some worry about how a large battery production facility will impact the local environment; others cited concerns regarding the local infrastructure and whether it could support an influx of thousands of new workers; and some took issue with a factory potentially being built so close to schools and residential neighborhoods. Many simply did not want their farmland “destroyed” or their small town disrupted by large-scale development.
The MEDC will continue to market the Durand-area megasite to prospective businesses, but as for now, residents can rest assured that a battery factory is off the table.