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Group, 3 residents appeal approval of 9 windmills

http://www.timesleader.com

Bear Creek Township zoning board gave OK for the power generators to be built.
By DAVID WEISS dweiss@leader.net

WILKES-BARRE ““ Defend Our Watershed and three Bear Creek Township residents want a judge to reverse a township zoning board decision that allows power-generating windmills to be built near Crystal Lake.

They said the decision the board made in granting a variance to permit the windmills’ construction is illegal.

The appeal, filed Tuesday in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, stems from the board’s decision to grant the variance for Energy Unlimited to erect nine windmills in the Penobscot Mountain Wind Farm.

The appeal, filed by the environmental organization and residents William and Jeanie Haas and Matthew Hrabousky, said the zoning board erred in granting the variance because the land is zoned as a conservation district. The appeal claims “no use or activity “¦ shall be permitted” in a conservation district if it will “disturb, destroy or impair the natural fauna, flora, water regimen, or topography.”

Variances can be granted only if the applicant will sustain “unnecessary hardship.”

The appeal claims the zoning board had insufficient evidence to grant a variance to Energy Unlimited.

Although an appeal was made on that zoning board decision, the variance issue is now in the township planning commission’s hands, said Ernest Preate Jr., an Energy Unlimited attorney. A hearing with the planning commission is set for Monday.

Once the planning commission renders a decision, township supervisors will decide whether to adopt the planning commission’s findings, Preate said.

Attorney William Higgs, who filed the appeal, did not return a message left at his office Wednesday.

Tuesday’s appeal also asks a judge to reverse a prior zoning board variance that allowed the erection of 25 windmills in the area.

The appeal comes a few days after Judge Michael Conahan cleared the way for the 25 windmills to be built. In that case, the zoning board approved a variance to allow Energy Unlimited to build the windmills, but the township supervisors rejected the company’s plan.

Energy Unlimited appealed the decision, and Conahan sided with Energy Unlimited.

That decision is expected to be appealed to Commonwealth Court.
David Weiss, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 831-7397.