If the Upper Paxton Twp. supervisors expected a public discussion last night on how best to regulate wind energy, they instead got a spirited discussion on whether wind farms should be allowed at all.
The board called the public hearing to hear comments on a new wind energy ordinance, which would replace one that has been on the books for several years.
It would remove the height limitation on wind turbines, specify setback distances from homes and place limits on noise and shadow flicker, among other things.
“It’s sort of like all technology,” said Thomas Shaffer, chairman of the board. “It’s moving so fast. When we passed [the original ordinance], we realized it was already outdated. We’ve updated it with the latest information we have.”
Gamesa, the Spanish wind developer, wants to build 25 wind turbines along several miles of Mahantango Mountain in the township, and that was all anyone really wanted to talk about.
“What started the sale of the mountain, the destruction of the mountain?” asked Verlee Acker, the most vocal critic last night. “They’re going to make money by putting that on the top of the mountain. It will ruin it for the animals.”
Nick Tichich, Gamesa’s project manager, told Acker the site was identified after landowners contacted Gamesa.
In answer to questions, he said Gamesa would build a single, 15-foot-wide access road to the top of the mountain, and then another road along the top connecting the 25 turbines. Tractor-trailers would use the access road only during the 7- to 8-month construction phase.
“Gamesa is very concerned with protecting nature,” Tichich said.
“The best thing is not to do it at all,” Acker countered.
Township resident Gary Packard raised concerns about two bat colonies in the vicinity of the proposed wind farm, including the Martz bat barn on the northern edge of Dauphin County. Tichich said Gamesa will sign a voluntary wildlife protection agreement with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“I’m not in favor of having that on the mountain,” another resident, Joe Merena, said. “Maybe we can do something. I’m considering moving.”
Township solicitor Tom Wenger threw up his hands in apparent frustration and told the audience that wind farms are legal and cannot be arbitrarily blocked by the township.
He said “provision has to be made” for having them somewhere, provided Gamesa can find people willing to lease them their land.
No one in the audience, other than Tichich of Gamesa, spoke in favor of the wind farm.
The supervisors will take action on the ordinance at a later date.
By David DeKok
Of The Patriot-News
12 April 2007
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