Contentious commission meeting in L’Anse

Daily Mining Gazette/Joshua Vissers The L’Anse township planning commission listens to a planning and zoning training presentation prepared by Patrick Coleman from North of 45 Urban and Town Planning.

L’ANSE — Another meeting of the L’Anse township planning commission grew contentious on Wednesday night, as members of the Friends of the Huron Mountains (FOHM) pressed the commission for answers to questions about the proposed wind farm, the Summit Lake Wind Project.

At the beginning of public comment, someone from the group stood to inquire about the publishing of board minutes. According to the Open Meetings Act, proposed meeting minutes should be available to the public within eight days of the meeting to which they refer. Once the minutes are approved, they are supposed to be available within five days.

Township Board minutes are usually posted on a bulletin board in the township hall, but planning commission meeting minutes have not been there.

“We will post them on the board,” said Roy Kemppainen, planning commission chairman.

Members of FOHM stood to ask questions of the board concerning zoning change recommendations they had made, but were unsatisfied with the answers. Kemppainen said some of the questions were too technical for the board to answer.

“It seems like you should have some information to back up that decision,” Catherine Andrews said after questioning the change in blade clearance the commission recommended to the township board.

At one point in the meeting, citing repeated outbursts from a member of the public, commission members Dan Robillard and Craig Kent left the meeting room, calling it a recess.

Once the full board returned, the meeting resumed and FOHM chairman Burt Mason presented the board with a list of 12 questions that concern the group. The questions included issues of legality, ecological damage, community impact and explanation of rationale for earlier actions.

“We’ve asked questions in the past, we’re not getting any answers,” Mason said.

He asked the board to “do their homework” before making changes requested by companies like Renewable Energy Services (RES).

The rest of the meeting was spent listening to Patrick Coleman from North of 45, who handles urban and town planning, who offered a training for the commission for updating the township master plan, which is required by the state for any township with a zoning ordinance. The master plan is meant to guide the creation and adjustment of ordinances.

Coleman sympathized with the current difficulties surrounding the township zoning ordinance.

“It’s virtually impossible to adopt a zoning ordinance and have it be absolutely perfect,” Coleman said.

He said even in the absence of errors in the document, technological developments like cellphone towers and wind turbines render ordinances and master plans obsolete over time. However, he cautioned against making variances, particularly for use. He said to put so much time and effort into careful zoning only to issue variances to anyone who requests one is counter-productive.

The next meeting of the planning commission was scheduled for Dec. 19 at 4 p.m.

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