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Board rejects eight wind turbines

Although the zoning board now has ruled to approve a portion of the proposed wind turbines, recent action by the board of county commissioners would allow a wind power project to start without going before the zoning board. Earlier this month, Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to change the zoning ordinance to allow wind turbines as a permitted use in A-1, M-1 light industrial and M-2 heavy industrial zones. Previously, wind turbines were only permitted after obtaining a special exception from the zoning board.

The Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board Monday followed a directive by Fayette County Judge Ralph C. Warman and granted approval for a wind turbine project for Georges and Springhill townships - sort of.

Following a 25-minute executive session, the zoning board unanimously approved a motion that granted special exceptions for 14 proposed wind turbines but denied special exceptions for eight wind turbines.

The board also denied a variance from setback requirements for the eight turbines on which variances were requested. All of the proposed sites are located on property zoned A-1, agricultural rural.

In the motion, the zoning board also outlined seven conditions for Iberdrola Renewables of Portland, Ore., that must occur for the project to begin.

Although the zoning board now has ruled to approve a portion of the proposed wind turbines, recent action by the board of county commissioners would allow a wind power project to start without going before the zoning board.

Earlier this month, Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to change the zoning ordinance to allow wind turbines as a permitted use in A-1, M-1 light... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The Fayette County Zoning Hearing Board Monday followed a directive by Fayette County Judge Ralph C. Warman and granted approval for a wind turbine project for Georges and Springhill townships - sort of.

Following a 25-minute executive session, the zoning board unanimously approved a motion that granted special exceptions for 14 proposed wind turbines but denied special exceptions for eight wind turbines.

The board also denied a variance from setback requirements for the eight turbines on which variances were requested. All of the proposed sites are located on property zoned A-1, agricultural rural.

In the motion, the zoning board also outlined seven conditions for Iberdrola Renewables of Portland, Ore., that must occur for the project to begin.

Although the zoning board now has ruled to approve a portion of the proposed wind turbines, recent action by the board of county commissioners would allow a wind power project to start without going before the zoning board.

Earlier this month, Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites voted to change the zoning ordinance to allow wind turbines as a permitted use in A-1, M-1 light industrial and M-2 heavy industrial zones. Previously, wind turbines were only permitted after obtaining a special exception from the zoning board.

Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink, who voted against the action, previously said she thinks that changing wind turbines to a permitted use takes away a venue for residents affected by a project.

The conditions imposed Monday include: construction of a 12-foot chain-link fence around each turbine; replanting of vegetation on any land disturbed for ingress and egress; taking measures to control the bat population through a cooperation agreement; and using a bet deterrence device and halting operation of the turbines for a two-month period in the summer from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. if a bat kill of more than 2,200 bats in a year occurs; having decibel level studies done by an independent sound expert; adhering to requirements of 500 feet from any road and 425 feet from any property lines for the approved turbines; taking down the turbines if they are unused for a specified time period and complying with the rules and regulations in the zoning ordinance.

The action was taken as a result of Warman's ruling on April 30 that overturned the zoning board's decision to deny PPM Atlantic Renewables, now known as Iberdrola Renewables, a special exception for an electricity-generating wind turbine project. In his ruling, Warman said that the board abused its discretion and committed errors of law when it refused the exception.

Warman remanded the case to the board.

Zoning board members Jim Killinger, Mark Rafail and Janet Nelson took the action.

Nelson said prior to making a motion that she felt the board made a "good and honest decision" to deny the request.

Zoning board solicitor Gretchen Mundorff explained that the eight turbines were denied because they did not meet the setbacks outlined in the ordinance.

However, the zoning board is permitted to allow variances from setbacks and has done so in other cases.

Warman's order specifically stated that the denial of the board was overturned and remanded the case to the board with the instructions that the board approve the request and impose conditions for the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Neil Brown, who owns property on which about a dozen of the towers are proposed, said Monday that he believes the zoning hearing board is biased and he didn't attend the hearing because he wasn't going to waste his time.

"I knew what was coming. They are defying a court order. They were against the project from the get-go and did what they could to stop it," Brown said. "I think the zoning board is out of control."

Brown added that two or three of the variances from setbacks were not needed because they were on his property that he has combined into one parcel since the original application was filed.

At the zoning board's initial remanded hearing on June 17, Brown explained that he has filed a deed combining seven of his parcels into one parcel, which would negate the need for all eight variance requests. Brown offered to bring a copy of the deed to the board, but it did not take him up on his offer.

Iberdrola plans to construct the South Chestnut Windpower project, which includes 24 wind turbines in the townships of Georges, Springhill and Wharton.

The $100 million wind-powered, electricity-generating facility would provide enough electricity for 17,000 homes annually, the company said.

The zoning board held four hearings on the request, including Oct. 17 and 31, 2007; Dec. 19, 2007; and Jan. 30, 2008; before issuing the denial on March 11, 2008.

During the hearings, numerous people spoke on both sides of the request. Some neighbors, including Thomas John Bozek III, who lives on Wymps Gap Road in Springhill Township, opposed the project, expressing concern about noise and other issues. The owner of Laurel Caverns in Georges Township expressed concerns about bat deaths.

Iberdrola then appealed the decision, ultimately leading to Warman's reversal.

One of the sticking points was the fact that the ordinance only allowed turbines with heights of 250 feet, and the industry standard is now 262.5 feet.

The wind turbines that are being proposed are 262.5 feet, and the blades are 145 feet long, for a total height of 406 feet.

Gary Verkleeren of Iberdrola Renewables, who did not attend the hearing on Monday, said initially he was not surprised of the board's ruling, but offered no additional comment.


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

JUN 30 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20902-board-rejects-eight-wind-turbines
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