MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — The ongoing dispute between the city of Marshall and some residents on the future Ford battery plant has escalated to a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in Calhoun County circuit court Tuesday, comes a month after the Committee For Marshall-Not the Megasite challenged some of the rezoning for this project. After the group learned its petition was denied by the city, members said they were left with no choice.
Diane Kowalske, one of eight plaintiffs in the suit, believes the city clerk’s office deeming the petition insufficient was unconstitutional, even though it had almost double the required amount of signatures.
“She’s saying that according to her interpretation of the city charter, it’s only committee members, which there are five, could collect signatures,” said Kowalske. “That is one of our points in the lawsuit — that that goes against the First Amendment.”
The lawsuit also claims adding an appropriation to the rezoning process — which can’t be challenged by a petition — violated the city’s charter.
“Ordinances can only be one subject, so we feel they put the appropriations in there on purpose so that it couldn’t … go to a referendum,” said Kowalske.
As construction continues on the battery plant, Kowalske believes the group members have built a better case for the court to respect their say and restore their vote.
“Let the people vote. We spent a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of hours working to get those signatures — 810 people said they wanted to vote. What we want is for the people’s voices to be heard,” she said.
Marshall City Manager Derek Perry provided a statement to News 8 on Wednesday saying the city was confident in its actions:
“We support the City Clerk’s ‘Certification of Insufficiency’ determination of June 16, 2023, and we will vigorously defend the City’s position in court. We are confident the facts will show that the individuals behind the effort ignored the City Charter and failed to properly gather a sufficient number of valid signatures to attempt to overturn the unanimous City Council decision to rezone the property. We know there is broad community support for this project, and we remain excited about the potential of the BlueOval Battery Park to create thousands of local jobs including jobs for young people, so they aren’t forced to leave our area to find opportunities.”Marshall City Manager Derek Perry
The lawyer representing the plaintiffs in this case said that they hope to have a decision from a judge sometime this week to temporarily halt the construction, pending this lawsuit.
*Correction: A previous version of this article misnamed the committee that opposes the megasite. We regret the error, which has been fixed.