When Pete Weaver learned that wind turbines could be installed into the surrounding area his initial reaction was positive, until he discovered that a wind turbine could be installed near his property line.
“Most people react the way I did,” said Weaver. “Who minds a wind mill? That is until you find out more about them,” he said.
Weaver is just one of the many property owners in Folmont Residential Wilderness Community, who are concerned about the county’s and area municipalities’ regulation on wind turbines.
The residential community is located in parts Shade, Stonycreek and Allegheny townships in Somerset County and Juniata Township in Bedford County.
Community residents have raised concerns regarding the potential decrease in their property value, the setback height from property lines, increase in noise generated from wind turbines as well as the environmental impacts such as clear cutting of the land and harming the watershed, Folmont Property Owners Association Vice President Dr. Terry Doran explained.
The community formed in 1975 and has been rapidly growing with 230 property owners and 41 permanent residents.
Doran along with community residents proposes for each of the municipalities involved to establish a consistent ordinance and for the Somerset County commissioners to revisit their current ordinance, he said.
“There has been a lot more information on the regulation of wind turbines since the adoption their ordinance.”
In 2004, the county commissioners passed an ordinance regulating wind turbines. The county’s ordinance regulates how close the structures can be built to occupied residences and businesses without a waiver and forces companies to set aside funds to dismantle the towers once they have outlived their usefulness.
Creating a more stringent ordinance upon the county’s is an option for area municipalities.
Shade Township supervisors proposed an ordinance on wind turbines that includes a setback of five times the turbine height from the nearest property line of a non-participating landowner at their Aug. 3 meeting.
The township held a public hearing on Oct. 26 to allow public comment on the proposed wind ordinance and plans to discuss the issue at its supervisors meeting today.
Allegheny Township has also drafted a more stringent ordinance than the county’s on regulation of wind turbines, said township Supervisors’ Chairman Miles Costello Jr. in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Costello was unable to give specific details of the ordinance, but said “the proposed ordinance has a greater property line setback than the counties and includes protection for full time resident and property owners who have cabins or recreation homes.”
Allegheny Township supervisors plan to vote on the issue at their next schedule supervisors meeting on Monday.
Supervisors in Stonycreek Township are exploring their options in creating a more stringent ordinance for their municipality, township Vice Chairman Gregory A. Walker said.
“The board has been discussing the issue and is looking out for residents who want to put wind turbine on their land and those who don’t,” he said.
Since Shade, Stonycreek and Allegheny townships are currently without an ordinance regulating the installation and maintenance of windmills for their municipalities, the regulation is set forth in Somerset County’s ordinance, which will be applied.
In recent months, there has been speculation on various wind turbine companies proposing to erect a number of wind turbines within the selected townships.
Gamesa Energy USA, a subsidiary of Gamesa Corp., a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, announced plans to build a five- to 10-turbine wind farm on the Swallow Farm in Shade Township in 2005.
Costello confirmed that the supervisors are aware that representatives from various wind turbine companies have been meeting with property owners proposing wind development project.
According to Doran about three potential wind farms are to be developed around the community. He estimates at a minimum of 31 wind turbines to be placed on the ridges surround the community.
“If there are going to be alternative sources from energy there has to be an alternative conservation plan,” said Doran.
By Jennifer Garlesky
Daily American Correspondent
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