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Judge schedules wind farm appeal for early next week

Vermont-based Laurel Hill Wind Energy Co., whose proposed wind farm project in northern Lycoming County was shot down when the county Zoning Hearing Board denied its application for a special exception, will soon get its day in court.

According to Robert Charlebois, managing director of parent company Catamount Energy Corp., of Rutland, Vt., arguments will be presented in the courtroom of county judge Nancy Butts at 9 a.m. next Monday.

The company originally proposed building 47 388-foot-high electricity-generating wind turbines along a seven-mile section of ridgeline in McIntyre and Jackson townships zoned either for agriculture or resource protection.

The company later agreed to reduced the scope of the project to 35 turbines and relocate some of them in an effort to reduce the impact on the area.

It also agreed to a list of measured drawn up by county Planning Commission staff that commission executive director Jerry S. Walls said would lessen the project’s impact and make it conform more to the county zoning ordinance and the county Comprehensive Plan.

In July the board voted 3-2 to deny the exception after a hearing that spanned nearly a year-and-a-half and included the testimony of dozens of people.

According to the board’s written decision, the project was inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and county zoning ordinance regarding resource protection zones, and would also adversely impact the environment and neighboring property.

The board also determined that the measures set forth by the Planning Commission and the company were insufficient to adequately lessen those effects.

In an appeal filed in August on behalf of the wind energy company, attorney Thomas C. Marshall, of the law firm McNerney, Page, Vanderlin and Hall, claimed the board committed legal errors and based its decision on findings supported by little or no evidence.

“˜”˜We think we’ve made a very compelling argument as to why (the board’s decision) should be overturned,” Charlebois said Monday.

“˜”˜It’s out of our hands. Now it’s up to the court to make that determination,” he said.

By David Thompson