Over the past two weeks, and as recently as Thursday, county planners have approved a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer’s first formal submission of required land development plans to erect 38 wind turbines in Ogle and Shade townships.
“Tim Vought from Gamesa Energy USA and Shaffer Mountain submitted the plans here,” said planner William Lehman of the Somerset County Planning Commission.
County regulations allow up to 10 days to approve minor land development plans, he said.
Gamesa’s Shaffer Mountain project involves 34 windmills. Twenty-five are to be constructed on Berwind Natural Resources Corp. property, including 22 in Shade Township and three in Ogle Township.
Nine others are to be constructed on individual property. The property owners are Harvey and Harriet Bear, Ogle Township, two towers; Roger Irons, Shade Township, two towers; Alan and Roxanne Manges, Shade, two towers; and Jane Gardner, Shade, three towers.
The Shaffer Mountain project is located on both sides of township Road 816 and Crumb Road close to the Bedford County border near where the Village of Crumb once existed, Lehman said. The wind towers would be about three to six miles northeast of Central City.
Gamesa Energy USA has also submitted plans for four wind turbines on the Katherine Zeigler property about three-and-a-half miles southeast of Central City in Shade Township, Lehman said.
Since summer, residents from Ogle and Shade townships have expressed concerns regarding the construction of wind turbines, specifically along the ridges of Shaffer Mountain. The group, which calls itself “Save the Mountain,” wants more stringent regulations to protect property owners. An ordinance regulating the industry was passed in April 2004 by county commissioners. However, local municipalities can pass their own regulations that would supersede the county ordinance.
Members of the group, including founder Joseph J. Cominsky, are expected to attend Monday’s Ogle Township meeting to express their concerns about the company’s plans. Cominsky, who owns property in both townships, said he is concerned about noise from the windmills, their effect on a local watershed and three high-quality trout streams, and property rights. Residents who live near the 20-turbine Meyersdale Wind Energy Project are also expected to attend.
For wind companies, plan approval is just another step in a process that can take several years. For county officials and residents, the filing of the plan by wind tower companies makes the projects “real,” said Brad Zearfoss, executive director of the planning commission.
Submission and approval of the development plans does not necessarily mean that the towers will be erected anytime soon or that the towers will be erected at all, county planners said. Nor does this part of the process indicate when construction will begin.
“Since the county ordinance has been in effect, several have been approved but none have been constructed,” Lehman said Friday.
Wind energy businesses lease property where turbines will be located. At the same time, they work to fulfill local ordinances and state and federal permit requirements that focus on environmental issues. The companies must also submit land development plans for approval to the planning commission, according to county officials.
In April 2005, Gamesa announced plans for a five- to 10-turbine wind farm on the Swallow Farm in Shade Township. The company has not submitted plans to the county for that development.
Gamesa representatives did not reply to several messages requesting comment Friday.
Casselman WindPower LLC, of Richmond, Va., filed plans to erect a total of seven turbines in Summit and Black townships. The plan was also approved by the county.
The Casselman project would be located west of the intersection of Bashore Road and Old Mule Trail just off Rockdale Road, Lehman said.
The seven towers would be erected on three properties: the P. Timothy and Shirley Vought property in Summit Township (three turbines) and the Timothy A. and Diana L. Sanner and David E. Sanner properties in Black Township, which would have two apiece.
By Judy D.J. Ellich
Daily American Staff Writer
(Judy D.J. Ellich can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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