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130-acre solar farm denial appealed in Slate Belt. See what’s next.

Lehigh Valley Live| John Best |October 25, 2020
PennsylvaniaZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar
In August, the township zoning and code enforcement officer, John DeCusatis, denied the application because the property is in the conservation and agricultural zoning districts, which do not allow solar farms as a permitted use. ...The company filed an appeal with the township’s zoning hearing board. The hearing began Wednesday but only so certain exhibits could be accepted into the record. The hearing is scheduled to continue with testimony at the board’s Nov. 18 virtual meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The developer of a 130-acre solar panel farm in Lower Mount Bethel Township is appealing the denial of the plan.
 
Glidepath Ventures filed an application in July with the township to build the 61,000-panel solar array project on 130 acres of a 154-acre property on Gravel Hill Road.
 
The Montgomery County-based company announced in August it changed its corporate name to Prospect14.
 
In August, the township zoning and code enforcement officer, John DeCusatis, denied the application because the property is in the conservation and agricultural zoning districts, which do not allow solar farms as a permitted use.
 
The undeveloped, uninhabited property does not have a specific street address.
 
The company filed an appeal with the township’s zoning hearing board. The hearing began Wednesday but only so certain exhibits could be accepted into the record. The hearing is scheduled to continue with testimony at the board’s Nov. 18 virtual meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
 
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The developer of a 130-acre solar panel farm in Lower Mount Bethel Township is appealing the denial of the plan.
 
Glidepath Ventures filed an application in July with the township to build the 61,000-panel solar array project on 130 acres of a 154-acre property on Gravel Hill Road.
 
The Montgomery County-based company announced in August it changed its corporate name to Prospect14.
 
In August, the township zoning and code enforcement officer, John DeCusatis, denied the application because the property is in the conservation and agricultural zoning districts, which do not allow solar farms as a permitted use.
 
The undeveloped, uninhabited property does not have a specific street address.
 
The company filed an appeal with the township’s zoning hearing board. The hearing began Wednesday but only so certain exhibits could be accepted into the record. The hearing is scheduled to continue with testimony at the board’s Nov. 18 virtual meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
 
Thirteen people, most of whom live on Gravel Hill Road and other nearby roads, introduced themselves in the hearing as objectors to the project.
 
Solar array facilities are not listed as a use in any of the township zoning districts. However, DeCusatis noted in his denial letter that the industrial zoning districts allow that any use not listed may be granted as a conditional use by the township’s board of supervisors.
 
Prospect14 has appealed the denial on three fronts. First, it is asking the hearing board to grant the application as a special exception. A solar farm resembles a public utility, which the hearing board could allow in the district, the appeal application states.
 
If a special exception is not granted, the appeal asks that the hearing board grant the application as a variance since the proposed solar farm would not negatively impact the surrounding neighborhood. Landscaping and property setbacks would mask the facility and, after construction is completed, there will be virtually no traffic impact on the unmanned facility, according to the applicant. Objectors may testify they reject the assertion that there will be no negative impact on the area.
 
If neither the special exception nor variance are granted, Prospect14 asserts it would challenge the constitutional validity of the township’s zoning ordinances since it does not allow solar farms.
 
Under Pennsylvania law, municipalities must allow for a wide variety of uses within its borders. Despite DeCusatis' note that a solar farm could be allowed in the industrial districts by conditional use, the appeal states that those districts are so small as to make the building of a solar farm impractical.
 
“... The Industrial Zone on the Township’s Zoning Map is so minuscule that from a practical standpoint, the Ordinance and Zoning Map preclude a Solar Farm use in its entirety,” the appeal states. “A Solar Farm use could not reasonably fit into the Zoning Map’s Industrial zoning district.”
 
Prospect14′s lawyer Sam Cohen asked that the validity challenge be bifurcated, or ruled on separately, until the question of the special exception and variance are decided.
 
Cohen said the validity challenge would require different witnesses and, therefore, a different hearing than the special exception and variance issues. The hearing board did not rule on the bifurcation but may decide at the Nov. 18 meeting.

Content truncated due to possible copyright. Use source link for full article.


Source:https://www.lehighvalleylive.…

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