Wind farm issue blows in changes

By JOSHUA VISSERS

Houghton Daily

Mining Gazette

L’ANSE — The L’Anse Township Planning Commission experienced several changes in membership last week with four new members being appointed by the L’Anse Township Board and two more members resigning.

Brian Kissel was appointed as the board liaison to the commission. Erik Mattox was reappointed to another three-year term. Catherine Andrews, who has served on the commission for nine years, was not re-appointed with three members of the board voting against her.

Andrews said she is disappointed, but not surprised.

“Renewable Energy Systems (RES) has been requesting changes to our zoning ordinance since September 2017,” Andrews wrote in a statement. “The vote to terminate me from my position reflects the company’s strategy to manipulate local politics to get what they want.”

After Andrews was turned down by the board, commission members Jim Ekdahl and Kristin Kahler stood up and tendered their resignations.

“It’s pretty obvious where this is going, and I’m not interested anymore,” Kahler said in resigning.

Kahler believes members of the board are selecting commission members out of interest in seeing the Summit Lake Wind Project proposed by RES move forward. The project would require a change in the zoning ordinance before it can proceed.

“I don’t feel that the township board is listening to the public, and I find no place for myself on a board governed by those whose self interests supersede the local community members of whom they were elected to represent,” she said in an email.

Ekdahl believes the decision not to reappoint Andrews was personal. He tendered his resignation because of it, and because the appointments to the commission were “an effort to stack the deck” in favor of the RES project.

“It didn’t matter if I wanted to do a careful review or not, the conclusion was already going to be based on the other folks who were going to be on that board, and it was going to be a waste of time. I didn’t want my name associated with that predestined effort,” Ekdahl said.

The other new appointees to the planning commission are Dan Robillard, for a three-year term, and Roy Kemppainen and Richard Wixtrom each for one-year terms. The terms are of different lengths to keep the year they come up for reappointments staggered.