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Bear Creek Township officials take more testimony on the controversial project.

BEAR CREEK TWP. – A zoning battle over the use of public land for a potential wind farm project broke down into arguments between those wanting to live without turbines and conserve land and those who want to turn a profit and conserve energy.

Attorneys representing Energy Unlimited, the company that wants to build nine wind turbines near Crystal Lake, and several lawyers representing the interests of residents in the township, argued before the Bear Creek Township Zoning Board Wednesday. The hearing is one in a series designed to allow parties who support and object to the wind-farm proposal a chance to speak before the board.
Walter J. Poplawski, a civil engineer whose A&E Group is working for Energy Unlimited, took more than two and a half hours of questions from those with interests on both sides.
During Poplawski’s testimony, he claimed that the 836 acres of land in Bear Creek Township designed into the wind-farm project had no viable ecological or scenic use.
“Are you saying this land is useless?” asked attorney Bob Gonos, who represents Matthew Hrabousky, a township man who lives adjacent to the land in question. “Are you saying we cannot use this land in its natural state for animals?”
The proposed construction site is also adjacent to thousands of acres of state game lands. When asked by attorney Bill Higgs if the construction would encroach on the natural wildlife areas, Poplawski said the infringement would be minimal.
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Attorneys representing Energy Unlimited, the company that wants to build nine wind turbines near Crystal Lake, and several lawyers representing the interests of residents in the township, argued before the Bear Creek Township Zoning Board Wednesday. The hearing is one in a series designed to allow parties who support and object to the wind-farm proposal a chance to speak before the board.
Walter J. Poplawski, a civil engineer whose A&E Group is working for Energy Unlimited, took more than two and a half hours of questions from those with interests on both sides.
During Poplawski’s testimony, he claimed that the 836 acres of land in Bear Creek Township designed into the wind-farm project had no viable ecological or scenic use.
“Are you saying this land is useless?” asked attorney Bob Gonos, who represents Matthew Hrabousky, a township man who lives adjacent to the land in question. “Are you saying we cannot use this land in its natural state for animals?”
The proposed construction site is also adjacent to thousands of acres of state game lands. When asked by attorney Bill Higgs if the construction would encroach on the natural wildlife areas, Poplawski said the infringement would be minimal.
“Obviously there will be large turbines through there, but the animals can run freely and pass through there,” Poplawski said.
Poplawski countered saying that he didn’t think the land was completely useless, and that the land which is currently zoned as a conservation area did not meet the criteria to become a state or national wildlife refuge. Poplawski also said the land isn’t useful as a water retention area, for agricultural use or as a good place to harvest timber.
Timber rights were leased out by the land’s previous owner, Theta Corp. Higgs, who represents Defend Our Watershed and several unnamed individuals living near the proposed site, questioned Poplawski’s ability to determine if the land was useful for timber harvesting.
Poplawski admitted he didn’t have extensive timber experience, but said that the trees appeared small and Higgs countered that if the land was so useless for timber, why did the former owner lease out timber rights to the land?
“Just because you have the timber rights, doesn’t mean it’s feasible to use it,” Poplawski said.
“Doesn’t the same go for wind rights?” Higgs said. “Your background isn’t in forestry or timbering?”
“The trees don’t seem particularly large or particularly valuable,” Poplawski said.
The turbines will stand more than 200 feet high.
Energy Unlimited purchased the wind rights from Theta Corp. just before Luzerne County purchased thousands of acres around the lake with bond money for recreational use in 2003.
The original proposal would have seen turbines placed on county-owned land in parts of Dorrance and Fairview townships, but Angelo Terrana, the zoning board solicitor, said the project was scaled back to only land in Bear Creek Township.
The current plans for the nine turbines will see about 25 acres of trees removed for the initial construction phase with 18 percent of the trees removed permanently, according to Poplawski, whose company also did work on the Arena Hub Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township and the T.J. Maxx warehouse in Pittston Township.
Five acres of the originally cleared trees would remain clear for an access road to the turbines meaning the rest of the land would hopefully see a regeneration of shrubs and vegetation, Poplawski said.
The nine new turbines would stand east of Crystal Lake. Energy Unlimited already received the go ahead to build an additional 25 wind turbines west of the lake.
Zoning board solicitor Terrana said the township has already heard several hours of testimony, and there are expected to be at least three more three-hour hearings before the board makes a decision on whether to grant Energy Unlimited the zoning variance it needs to move the project forward.


Kris Wernowsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7329. kwernowsky@leader.net


Source: http://www.timesleader.com/...

DEC 8 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/633-bear-creek-township-officials-take-more-testimony-on-the-controversial-project
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