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Windmill firm's challenges denied

www.timesleader.com

Energy Unlimited claimed Bear Creek Twp.’s zoning ordinance amendments weren’t followed.

By Rory Sweeney rsweeney@leader.net

Bear Creek Twp. ““ After about an hour of testimony and evidence submission that seemed more akin to a court of law than a municipal meeting, the township zoning board swiftly denied Energy Unlimited’s procedural challenges of amendments to the township’s zoning ordinance on Tuesday.

Attorney Joseph Persico argued that several processes required in municipal code to ensure public awareness of municipal actions were not followed by the township board of supervisors and, thus, invalidated the amendments, which Energy Unlimited believes will effectively prohibit wind-turbine construction in the township.

He cited the supervisors’ failure to vote on June 5 to advertise a public meeting on the amendments, to send changes to the amendments to the Luzerne County planning commission and have a public meeting on the changes, and to have the township secretary sign the copy of the amendments sent to the county courthouse for public inspection.

Township solicitor Bill Vinsko argued that, while the supervisors might not have followed the rules exactly, “the spirit of the ordinance was followed in full” and that the changes to the amendment were insignificant enough that they didn’t need their own public meeting.

Distilling the arguments, zoning board solicitor Angelo Terrana said, “The crux of the matter is the determination by this board if the change made was substantial. “¦ If it wasn’t “¦ they did not invalidate “¦ the ordinance.”

Taking a five-minute recess to discuss the arguments, the three-member board voted unanimously to deny the challenge.

“We felt that the township did what it was supposed to,” said board Chairman Jeff Stewart. “It would pass the second time as it did the first time.”

Ernie Preate, who represents Energy Unlimited, shrugged off the setback, saying it was more of a Hail Mary attempt than a serious challenge and that the same concerns will probably be raised during the company’s appeal of the supervisors’ denial of its wind park application.

“A court might have a different opinion,” he said.

Bonnie Wasilewski, chairwoman of the township board of supervisors, was pleased with the zoning board’s decision, but questioned why the company even raised the challenge, since its attorneys admitted at the meeting’s outset that its current project wasn’t affected by the amendments.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.