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Commissioners approve wind turbine deal

Two Fayette County commissioners voted to sign an agreement Thursday that addresses neighbors concerns regarding the location of wind turbines in a $100 million project proposed for Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships. Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to sign the agreement between PPM Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp./Iberdrola Renewables, the county and property owners that petitioned the court to be included in the case. Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink voted against the action, saying she doesn't believe the commissioners have the authority to approve changes to the proposed project.

Two Fayette County commissioners voted to sign an agreement Thursday that addresses neighbors concerns regarding the location of wind turbines in a $100 million project proposed for Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships.

Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to sign the agreement between PPM Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp./Iberdrola Renewables, the county and property owners that petitioned the court to be included in the case. Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink voted against the action, saying she doesn't believe the commissioners have the authority to approve changes to the proposed project.

Zimmerlink said she supports the project itself but the commissioners have to make sure it follows the zoning ordinance.

"I support windmills and alternative energy as long as they conform to the zoning ordinance," Zimmerlink said.

Zimmerlink also clarified that county solicitor Joseph E. Ferens Jr. did not give a formal written legal opinion, but told the commissioners the case is in the hands of the court and signing an agreement could give a perception of political pressure.

Zapotosky said he feels the agreement shows... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Two Fayette County commissioners voted to sign an agreement Thursday that addresses neighbors concerns regarding the location of wind turbines in a $100 million project proposed for Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships.

Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to sign the agreement between PPM Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp./Iberdrola Renewables, the county and property owners that petitioned the court to be included in the case. Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink voted against the action, saying she doesn't believe the commissioners have the authority to approve changes to the proposed project.

Zimmerlink said she supports the project itself but the commissioners have to make sure it follows the zoning ordinance.

"I support windmills and alternative energy as long as they conform to the zoning ordinance," Zimmerlink said.

Zimmerlink also clarified that county solicitor Joseph E. Ferens Jr. did not give a formal written legal opinion, but told the commissioners the case is in the hands of the court and signing an agreement could give a perception of political pressure.

Zapotosky said he feels the agreement shows the concerns of the residents of Skyline Drive were addressed.

"I think it's important as leaders to show a stance," Zapotosky said.

Vicites said he wanted to ensure the residents got a fair shake because they were going to be steamrolled.

"I do support the project but my feeling is they had to take care of the concerns of neighbors. I think they have done an excellent job of addressing the problems," Vicites said. "Now we have to speak with a loud voice as county commissioners. We are leaders, let's move this project forward."

The agreement specifically calls for the elimination of one of the proposed sites for the South Chestnut Windpower Project for Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships. A separate agreement reached with another property owner called for eliminating another proposed site.

The stipulation also states that the property owners would not oppose court action to overturn a denial for the project.

The agreement will be presented to the court as a part of the records. Judge Ralph C. Warman will make the decision on the case.

Gary Verkleeren of PPM said the company plans to keep its word regarding the elimination of the two proposed sites.

Plans are to construct a wind-powered, electricity-generating facility that would provide enough electricity for 17,000 homes annually to be placed in the power grid.

Earlier this year, the county zoning hearing board denied a special exception and variance request by PPM Atlantic that would have allowed construction of the 24-turbine project. The Wharton Township Zoning Hearing Board approved a similar request that would have allowed construction of about a half dozen turbines in that township but the project isn't economically viable unless all 24 turbines are constructed.

After the denial, the company appealed the decision, saying the zoning board improperly denied the request. The zoning ordinance allows windmills of up to 250 feet in height, but the current industry standard is now 262 feet.

Zapotosky and Zimmerlink directed the county solicitor to intervene in the case to ensure the zoning board did was it was charged to do under the law.

Larry Williams, a property owner who signed an agreement that removes a proposed turbine location and keeps the closest turbine about a mile from his house, said he thinks the project all comes down to money. He asked the three commissioners how they each came to support the project.

Zapotosky said they have to look at the bigger picture and support alternative energy.

Vicites said he always has supported the project.

"I understand people don't want it in their back yards but we have to do what is best. We have to keep an open mind," Vicites said.

Zimmerlink said she supports alternative energy but believes the decision about the case rests with the court.

Vicites said he doesn't understand how his fellow commissioners can say to let the courts decide and then intervene in the case. Zimmerlink said she merely wanted to ensure the zoning board did what it is charged to do under the law.

Williams said he would hate to see windmills across the entire ridge.

"The fact remains, we all don't live on an island," Zapotosky said.

Williams said it is quiet at his house now and he can't put a price tag on living that way. He also pointed out that if the wind turbines are built, the electricity they provide goes out of the county.

Zapotosky said he grew up in Masontown across the Monongahela River from Hatfield Ferry Power Plant and Fayette County doesn't benefit from the electricity produced there.

"It's the nature of the industry. We have to get outside the box of 'fill my oil tank every September,'" Zapotosky said.


Source: http://www.heraldstandard.c...

SEP 26 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/17245-commissioners-approve-wind-turbine-deal
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