BEAR CREEK TWP. ““ Though the township currently stands victorious in its legal defense of a decision to strike down a proposed wind park, fallout from the battle is still affecting municipal decision-making.
After the township’s planning commission meeting on Monday evening, commission members discussed a proposed subdivision and land development ordinance, taking special care to avoid any ambiguities that might have facilitated a lawsuit by Energy Unlimited Inc. to have its proposed 25-turbine park approved.
Years of municipal infighting and legal challenges culminated in a Feb. 16 decision by the state Commonwealth Court to let stand the supervisors’ rejection of the project. The decision reversed a lower court decision, which had held that the supervisors needed a recommendation from the township’s planning commission to nix the proposal.
Energy Unlimited has filed a motion for re-argument with the Commonwealth Court to review its decision, but township solicitor William Vinsko has said it seems unlikely that the court will grant the motion.
Reviewing the proposed ordinance during a work session, commission members discussed plans to reorganize how project proposals are handled at the township, including having them sent straight to the township’s engineer for comments before being presented to the planning commission.
Many of the suggestions were in an effort to streamline the process that allowed a conditional approval of Energy Unlimited’s plan in 2003 and then embroiled the township in a legal fight that, among other things, questioned whether changes made to the plan presented to the supervisors were “substantial.”
At the work session, Vinsko recommended defining the word “change” in the proposed ordinance.
“We all have a bad taste in our mouths because we gave nine conditions and never saw them in two years,” said commission member Tony Ciliberto.
When the ordinance, which covers standards for new development and road construction, reaches supervisors for approval, it will be packaged with a mirroring ordinance covering standards for pre-existing roads that will be utilized in any construction and another that outlines fines and another sanctions for violations, Vinsko said.
By Rory Sweeney
20 March 2007
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