MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge has declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the construction of a Ford battery plant in Marshall amid a lawsuit over the project.
In a Monday ruling, Judge William Marietti said he would not suspend zoning ordinance changes supporting the Ford Motor Co. BlueOval Battery Park Michigan.
The Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance, the group working to move the project forward, celebrated the decision, saying in a statement that it was “a positive step toward a brighter future for Marshall and beyond…”
MAEDA said the development has “broad community support” and touted the jobs it will create.
“We applaud the court for helping to ensure this vital economic development opportunity will continue to move forward in the weeks and months ahead,” the statement said.
The city rezoned 700 acres south of Michigan Avenue between 13 Mile and 15 Mile roads as industrial for the plant. The organized opposition to the project, the Committee for Marshall-Not the Megasite, challenged that rezoning. It filed a petition to call for a public vote on the matter but the city clerk deemed it insufficient. That led the group to file the lawsuit on June 27, calling the clerk’s decision unconstitutional and arguing leaders violated the city charter when they tied an appropriation to the rezoning — which made it ineligible for a petition challenge. It asked for an injunction and for the court to order the city clerk to accept the petition.
Marietti noted that the function of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the status quo — that is, keep things as they are.
“…(S)uspending the operation of the ordinance, and requiring the council to repeal it or place the referendum on the ballot will alter the status quo in stead of preserving it,” he wrote. “For that reason alone, the motion should be denied.”
He also suggested that the opponents were unlikely to succeed in their request to get the petition deemed sufficient, citing rulings in other cases that supported rules prohibiting petitions in relation to ordinances with appropriations. Opponents also said the city charter requires ordinances to only have one purpose, so the appropriation shouldn’t have been added. But Marietti was skeptical of that, too, saying previous cases validated appropriations that supported the ordinance’s purpose.
The Committee for Marshall-Not the Megasite said it was “disappointed” by the decision.
“The Court’s ruling … completely failed to address the constitutional issues we raised and instead decided that the City can ignore its own charter to put an appropriation into the ordinance specifically designed to strip away our rights,” it said in a Tuesday statement. “We believe the Court made many legal errors in its order and will have a chance to show the Court why it was wrong at the next hearing on the mandamus petition.”
It said it was looking at appeal options and voted to continue to its fight.
The $3.5 billion, 2,000-acre plant will create about 2,500 jobs in the Marshall area. It will build a new type of battery that aims to help lower the cost of electric vehicles.