Milan Township voters to have say on incumbent clerk, trustee in recall election May 2

Milan Township will hold a recall vote during the Tuesday, May 2, election.

Milan Township trustee Robert Dopkowski and clerk Barbara Collins are available for reelection Tuesday but face a challenge for their roles. Recall petitions for both candidates were drafted in response to their votes against rescinding Milan Township's embattled solar ordinance during the Nov. 10, 2022 meeting.

The ordinance first came under scrutiny after it was amended in 2020 to allow large solar energy projects to be developed in both industrial- and agricultural-zoned districts. Previously, only industrial lands were considered for solar use.

That decision drew the ire of some township residents concerned about the potential negative impact such projects might have on property values along with the overall visual appeal of such solar farms.

At the Nov. 10, 2022 board meeting, Trustee Olga Mancik made a motion to repeal the ordinance, which was seconded by Treasurer Joel Gotts. The motion failed in a 2-2 vote with Dopkowski and Collins both voting no. Township Supervisor Mark Bogi was not present at the meeting.

In response, opponents of the solar ordinance drafted a recall petition.

Later at the Feb. 9, 2023, board meeting, a motion to adopt a new article to the solar ordinance was put forth by Gotts that would restrict solar to industrial-zoned district only. Dopkowski and Collins voted against the motion, but Bogi joined with Gotts and Mancik to approve the change.

The candidates for Milan Township trustee are the incumbent and non-partisan Robert Dopkowski, non-partisan Thomas McGettigan (on the ballot at Tom McGettigan), and Republican Nicholas Straub.

The candidates for Milan Township clerk are the incumbent, Republican Barbara Collins, and the non-partisan Stephanie Kozar.


Robert Dopkowski

Affiliation: Non-partisan.

Age: 71.

Occupation: Retired, formerly in taxes and accounting. Current Milan Township trustee.

Government experience: Milan Township trustee (current) and Milan Township Planning Commission for 18 years. Has run and won five elections as a non-partisan candidate. "It's about dealing with your friends and neighbors, not politics," he said.

Opinion on the solar ordinance/zoning: "I've been on the planning commission for 18 years and I helped write the original solar ordinance, which seemed OK at first, but has subsequently been changed and I consider it flawed now. … I believe that the ordinance needs to be changed back to what it was because as far as I'm concerned, I believe a farmer should have the right to do what he wants with his land to make money and keep his farm financially viable. (Agriculture) comprises 70% of the land in the township. Basically, they're trying to ban solar. We only have a small fraction of industrial land."

Thomas McGettigan

Affiliation: Non-partisan.

Age: 60.

Occupation: Self-employed.

Government experience: Elected Summerfield Township trustee (late 1990s). Appointed Milan Area Fire Department executive board "member at large" (late 2000s). Attended multiple Michigan Township Association training conferences as a trustee.

Opinion on the solar ordinace/zoning: "It was wise to adopt a specific zoning ordinance once the township knew there was interest in installing large solar arrays. … Based on my experience and knowledge of the process of adopting a township zoning ordinance, everything was done correctly. I am also very conservative and a strong property-rights supporter. The setbacks, green belts and fencing outlined under the original ordinance were more than reasonable. It is important to note that the farm ground that surrounds my house is signed up to have panels. And I was still not opposed. … Ultimately, it is the owner of the land to make that call. Also, the nature of the agricultural land would be a factor, too. Not all farm ground is equal."

Nicholas Straub

Affiliation: Republican.

Age: 61.

Occupation: Retired.

Government experience: None. Added Straub: "Though I have worked with municipalities in my previous career."

Opinion on the solar ordinance/zoning: "Milan Township Solar Ordinance is currently being modified to address issues that have been brought forward from the residents over the past year, i.e. setbacks, screening, noise level, etc. These issues should be addressed and taken care of before any solar projects are allowed in the area. … When addressing the placement of large solar installations, one must address all the residents and not just a select few. When I hear of clear cutting forests and installing 6-8-foot high fences around multiple properties/installations, in our township, I feel this will have a detrimental effect on the townships rural landscape appeal."


Barbara Collins

Affiliation: Republican.

Age: 80.

Occupation: Current Milan Township clerk.

Government experience: Milan Township clerk (current) for the past six and a half years. Previously spent 15 and a half years in the Ypsilanti Community Schools Safe School Program.

Opinion on the solar ordinance/zoning: "With the changes in it, I'm not in favor of it. With just going to industrial (zoning), I'm not in favor of it. I don't think that's serving the best for the people in our township. And I believe in farmer's rights. If they left in agricultural (zoning), that would be fine because it's an accepted product for the Agricultural Department for the state of Michigan."

Stephanie Kozar

Affiliation: Non-partisan.

Age: 33.

Occupation: Research coordinator at Michigan Medicine.

Government experience: No previous experience.

Opinion on the solar ordinance/zoning: "The current Milan Township solar ordinance is heading in the right direction. Our township still has a lot to work on to make sure our residents are heard and protected as well as making sure that solar has a place in our township. Our township has a place for solar projects and that is in our designated industrial-zoned areas. We want to make sure each project we welcome into our township is placed in an appropriate area to maintain our rural atmosphere and adhere to what we have heard from a majority of the residents."

This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Milan Township clerk, trustee positions in May 2 recall election