SHADE TOWNSHIP – Supervisors have refused to go on record opposing or supporting the controversial Shaffer Mountain wind farm project.
“These decisions are really hard to make,” said Chairman John Topka during Thursday’s meeting. “We sometimes can’t make decisions based on what we feel.”
The reason he and fellow supervisors Michael Custer and Henry Zubek said their neutrality involves future issues the township may face concerning wind energy companies.
The township has an ordinance in place to deal with wind turbines in the future, Topka said. If for any reason, a wind energy company decides to take the township to court for not granting variances or other exceptions to the ordinance, the supervisors’ characters can and will be called into question if an official stance on the Shaffer Mountain project is taken.
“Any position they take on a project they have no stakes in, from a governmental standpoint, could be detrimental in the future,” said Scott Bittner, solicitor.
Topka also told those assembled that Gamesa’s lawyers sent a draft of an agreement for the supervisors to sign that would provide the township with $1,500 per windmill constructed.
“We pushed it aside, and didn’t sign it,” he said. “We didn’t want to put our approval on that project. But they (other wind energy companies) will use it against us in the future, and we know that.”
In short, opposition to Shaffer Mountain could characterize the township as “anti-windmill,” just as approval of the project could cause an influx in requests to construct turbines, he said.
Taking a neutral stance on the issue is not to say the supervisors are indifferent about residents’ feelings, though, Bittner said.
“To say they don’t care is a misstatement. They are the forerunners in dealing with windmills,” he said, noting that the township’s ordinance is much stricter than the regulations set forth by the Somerset County Planning Commission, under whose jurisdiction the Shaffer Mountain project falls.
In other business, a public hearing will be held next month regarding the transfer of the liquor license for Zubek Inc. from Conemaugh Township to Shade Township.
Bittner said the township will hold the hearing so residents have a chance to be informed and given details about what the transfer will entail.
The hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6, prior to the regularly scheduled supervisors’ meeting.
By Sarah L. Reiber
Daily American Correspondent
4 August 2007
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