BLAKELY – When the Valley Community Library board began exploring the possibility of a wind turbine to reduce electricity costs a couple of months ago, borough officials began exploring the zoning codes.
There wasn’t anything about wind technology.
The zoning ordinance is from 2003 and “there’s nothing on that,” borough manager Thomas Wascura said. “There are height restrictions on antennas.”
To help address issues with the new technology, such as noise, safety and aesthetic effects, the borough is revising its zoning ordinance with a section about wind farms and windmills.
The borough is not alone. Other communities considering changes include Taylor and Jessup, said planning consultant Marvin Brotter who advises the three boroughs.
“This is becoming an issue,” he said.
Mr. Brotter is helping the borough decide on fees, site plan requirements, tower heights, blade heights and allowable locations.
In Blakely, the proposed changes are being reviewed by borough solicitor Ned Abrahamsen before they are handed off to the Planning Commission and Borough Council for deliberation and enactment.
In Taylor, the zoning changes have been approved by the Planning Commission and need a public hearing before council can vote on them, said borough manager Daniel Zeleniak. The county must also weigh in on the changes.
Mr. Brotter advised Taylor officials to address wind turbines to stay ahead of new technology, Mr. Zeleniak said.
Taylor council could take up the changes as soon as May or June, Mr. Zeleniak said.
“As technology advances – just like DirecTV advances – everyone could have a small windmill on their house generating power,” he said.
In Jessup, the idea is still in the exploration stage, Planning Commission chairman Eugene Varzaly said. The commission asked Mr. Brotter about the technology and local zoning after Gov. Ed Rendell began promoting alternative energy.
“There are windmill farms throughout the country,” Mr. Varzaly said. “It’s coming our way.”
Blakely council President Edward Ghilardi said he could imagine wind turbines along the highway, but not near homes.
“I don’t see how it could be in town,” he said. “You’re talking about a big windmill.”
In addition to the appearance and safety issues, Blakely officials must consider the financial impact of wind technology in the borough. The borough does not collect a property tax, but purchases wholesale electricity that it sells to residents to raise operating revenue.
Decreasing electricity consumption due to windmills would decrease revenue to the borough.
“What’s to stop every business from getting one?” Mr. Ghilardi asked. “We don’t have any taxes.”
Mr. Ghilardi said he and other council members will need more information before they approve any changes.
“We’ve got to see what’s up,” he said. “It gets so sticky.”
By Elizabeth Piet
16 April 2007
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