In the midst of the state government’s push for alternative energy and projected increases in electrical costs, Butler Township Zoning Hearing Board felt the need to establish rules regulating windmill use for safety reasons.
The seven-page proposed ordinance, partially drafted by Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor Donald Karpowich and Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Dave Kostanesky, will be sent to the township supervisors for approval.
Kostanesky also suggested the township planning commission might want to review and tweak the ordinance.
The ordinance, Kostanesky said, was taken from Gov. Ed Rendell’s Web site and modified to fit the township’s needs. It addresses the construction and maintenance of both wind farms and individual windmills.
“People could come in with windmill applications any day now,” Kostanesky said.
Karpowich added that the township wants to be ready for those applications before they start coming in.
Township Zoning Officer Larry Sims said he already had an inquiry for a test windmill on top of Nescopeck Mountain.
The ordinance, Kostanesky said, includes safety measures and requires adherence to Federal Aviation Administration and Uniform Construction Code standards and regulations.
Its purpose, the document states, is to provide for the construction and use of windmill facilities for energy and subjects it to conditions that will protect public health, safety and welfare.
Included in the ordinance, dubbed the Wind Energy Facility Ordinance, there are many construction requirements that were placed to prevent annoyances.
It establishes that sound from a facility can not exceed 55 decibels at the nearest occupied building or property. Also, the windmill owner must make reasonable efforts to reduce the amount of “shadow flicker,” created by the sun hitting the mill’s blades.
It requires general liability insurance covering bodily injury and property damage and establishes rules for decommissioning a windmill. A decommissioned wind turbine, under the proposed ordinance, must be removed within 12 months and the owner must provide a 50-percent bond to the township.
Also, the owner of the windmill must keep a phone number and identify a manager for public inquiries and complaints throughout the entire life of the project.
Having a windmill or wind farm will be considered a special exception in rural conservation and mining districts. A standalone wind turbine at homes or farms will be allowed by special exception in every zoning district, the proposed ordinance states.
Though the ordinance requires a permit application for construction of a windmill, the price has not been set.
The testing of windmills used for alternative energy has already began in Greater Hazleton, as an energy firm tested wind speed at the Hazleton City Authority administration building off Arthur Gardner Parkway last year.
A proposal for a windfarm in Sugarloaf Township was denied a few years ago.
There was also discussion about a wind farm on Greater Hazleton Joint Sewer Authority land during its Monday night meeting to cut back on electrical expenses.
There is a wind farm in Bear Creek Township.
By Amanda Christman
25 July 2007
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