ALLEGHENY TOWNSHIP – Township supervisors began the controversial process Monday night of regulating windmill development.
They faced a crowd of more than 40 people at the township building, many of whom were calling for stricter regulations on windmill development than the current draft ordinance allows.
Township supervisor chairman Miles Costello told them he wants to make sure windmills are developed safely and wants to fairly address the rights of everyone.
“I’m not for them, I’m not against them,” Costello said of windmills. “But I can’t tell these people what to do with their property.”
The supervisors approved the draft ordinance, which in certain ways is stricter than an ordinance the Somerset County commissioners approved in 2004.
The township’s ordinance calls for a setback between windmills and property lines of at least 1.5 times the hub height of the turbine. It also requires windmills to be constructed at least five times the hub height from any occupied structure, including cabins and summer homes.
The ordinance will now be sent to the Somerset County Planning Commission for review. In 45 days, the supervisors will hold a public hearing on the ordinance, then meet to discuss possible amendments to it. At a subsequent meeting they will vote on it for final approval.
Speaking on behalf of the Folmont Property Association, Terry Dorn said Folmont property owners are not necessarily opposed to windmills; they just windmills to be strongly regulated. Part of the Folmont subdivision is located in northern Somerset County.
Dorn said many people moved to Folmont because they want protection from “the more industrialized world.” He said the association would like the distance between windmills and property lines to be increased to five times, or approximately 1,000 feet.
Township solicitor Greg Frantz said if the setback distance is challenged in court, the township would be required to demonstrate the requirement is reasonable.
“Any restrictions you have, you have to be able to justify it as a reasonable regulation,” Frantz said.
Dorn also asked for the ordinance to require turbines to operate at lower decibel levels than the 55 decibels the draft ordinance requires. He stated the European Union requires turbines to run at 35 decibels.
“The technology is there to make it much quieter,” Dorn said.
Roger Clark, a Berlin Borough council member, spoke in support of windmill development. Berlin has been trying for years to build three windmills on Whitehorse Mountain to provide electricity for the borough. The proposed site is located in Brothersvalley Township but borders Allegheny Township.
“Take advantage of our wind. Be compensated for it and use it,” Clark said.
Clark said his grandparents had a windmill on their Somerset County farm and if they were alive today they would like still have it.
Jeff Payne, a veterinarian who has lived in Allegheny Township for 16 years, said the supervisors should consider the possibility that wind turbines could decrease residents’ property values and lead to health problems such as wind turbine syndrome, which causes migraine headaches.
When it receives final approval, the township ordinance will supersede the county ordinance. Until then, windmill development in the township is regulated by the county.
By Rob Gebhart
Daily American Staff Writer
(Rob Gebhart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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