Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Pennsylvania
VALLEY VIEW – The Hegins Township Planning Commission on Thursday did not make a decision, but instead, continued its public hearing on a curative amendment to the township zoning ordinance.
According to the decision filed Jan. 30, the board found that overall, Atlantic Wind failed to produce sufficient evidence and did not show that the project would comply with the Penn Forest Zoning Ordinance. The application sought to construct 28 nearly 600-foot-tall industrial wind turbines in the township.
The turbines also must be no less than 2,500 feet from the nearest property line. ... It cannot be taller than 335 feet. There are also restrictions on how much noise and shadow flicker can be made by the turbines.
The board agreed to amend the current ordinance after residents raised concerns over the two applications pending in the township by Atlantic Wind to build turbines on land owned by the Bethlehem Water Authority. Township solicitor Thomas Nanovic said any changes would not apply to the current applications.
Attorneys in Penn Forest Township peppered Atlantic Wind representatives with questions Wednesday night as the township zoning hearing board continued testimony on the pending application to build a string of turbines in the township.
Atlantic Wind LLC, following a contentious review of the project in Carbon's Penn Forest Township, won local approval last year for its plan to put 37 wind-power turbines on township land it is leasing from the water authority. The subsidiary of Portland, Oregon-based Avangrid Renewables asserted the project as "deemed approved" by exploiting a technicality related to a delay in the township's scheduling of a hearing as part of its review.
Given the fact an Illinois-based energy company is studying the idea of adding windmills in the township next door, it makes sense for the township to be prepared for the possibility, too, township Chairman Lewis Clark II said.
The interest in a wind farm ordinance first arose at a township meeting July 5. Clark said the supervisors are learning from neighboring townships and will prepare an ordinance before it is needed.
On Wednesday night, the Penn Forest zoning hearing board denied Atlantic Wind’s application for two special exceptions to build up to 37 wind turbines on property owned by the Bethlehem Water Authority. The zoning board proceeded with the hearing even though Atlantic Wind failed to show.
After legal issues over safety put hearings on pause last year, Penn Forest Township zoners plan next week to resume discussions on whether 37 wind turbines can be built on the ridges surrounding Bethlehem's water supply in Carbon County.
The zoners' solicitor, Matthew Rapa, said the township has no problem with moving the hearing to the courthouse, but he asked the judge to leave the decision on the special exception to the Zoning Hearing Board. He argued that Pennsylvania's Municipal Planning Code gives the zoners "exclusive jurisdiction" to "render final adjudication" in matters of special exceptions.
The case has already had three nights of hearings. At this point, attorneys representing the Penn Forest residents are making the case that the project would harm the health and welfare of the people who live nearby and significantly impact the environment.
For Tammy McKenzie and her husband, life has not been the same since a farm of wind turbines went up near their home in Somerset County. ..."We're in a lose-lose situation. No person sitting here tonight should have to lose the comfort of their house as I have lost the comfort of my house," McKenzie testified to the board and crowd of more than 300 people.
Thursday's meeting centered on the testimony of McKenzie and Pamela Dodds, a hydrogeologist who said Atlantic Wind's project could do lasting damage to the soil and watershed it would build the turbines on. The meeting was as raucous as the ones that preceded it.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's flier says the company behind the project – Iberdrola Renewables – stands to get up to $3 million a year in federal subsidies, and that Toomey has fought to end them for “inefficient, unwanted wind farms.”
The emotions were generated by a proposal for a 37-turbine farm that would sprawl across as many as 266 acres north and south of Hatchery Road in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County. The land is owned by the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city's water business, and would come within less than a mile of several homes.
The Lehighton Water Authority has rejected an offer from a renewable energy company to develop on their land. Three of those 40 turbines are gone with the wind.
Some residents are worried about the environment, noise, property values, and what would happen to their thriving tourism industry.
Nearby residents, including a few living within a half-mile of the project, have petitioned the zoners to turn down the company's request for a special exception, based on the health, welfare and safety of the community.
Should Towamencin establish rules regulating wind energy systems, and the types that can be installed on homes within the township? That topic has been discussed by the township’s planning commission in recent months, and was the subject of lengthy talks by the township supervisors Wednesday.