WELLSBORO – After more than an hour of public testimony – most of it opposed to the proposed AES wind farm project in Tioga and Bradford counties – the Tioga County Planning Commission tabled any action, pending further review.
AES’s application to build 124 wind turbines on more than 10,000 acres of leased private property on top of Armenia Mountain has been submitted to the commission, but because it is “incomplete,” Tioga County Planner Jim Weaver recommended to the board that it be tabled to give AES more time to get the required documentation.
Project manager Robert White had asked the commission for “conditional approval” of the company’s application because of the impending deadlines for permits through Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI).
“The problem is these studies take about a year to complete and then they have to go to the Game Commission for review, and that could put us into January,” he told the commission.
Among the studies AES has yet to complete are bird and bat studies required by the state Game Commission.
The meeting drew about three dozen people to the commissioner’s meeting room at the courthouse here.
Ron Kamzelski, a member of the Tioga Preservation Group that formed to combat the multi-billion dollar energy company’s project, asked that recently appointed commission member Nancy Smith, who also serves as Sullivan Township secretary, recuse herself. Kamzelski said the township stands to receive about $52,000 for “hosting” the project, which he suggested was a paramount to a bribe.
But commission chairman Don Norman defended Smith’s position on the board, answering that the money had no bearing on her appointment to replace Joe Welsh, who retired recently.
“I would think if something this important is coming to Sullivan Township, the people of that township would want to have a representative on the commission,” he said.
Fifty-on turbines would be placed in Sullivan Township and 21 in Ward Township, both of which are in Tioga County, and the rest in Armenia Township, Bradford County.
Board member Steve Banos of Lawrenceville said he resented the insinuation from Kamzelski, who read from the county‘s comprehensive plan.
“According to the salvo, the board must reject the application because it is incomplete,” he said.
Others in attendance who oppose the wind farm included Ann Sanders, who questioned AES officials about the decision to use pulsating red lights on 39 of the 124 towers, per FAA regulations.
“The Fish and Wildlife Commission has said that those type of lights appear to attract more night migrating birds,” she said.
Other concerns raised by several people in the audience were with the effect of “shadow flicker” and noise from the enormous blades atop 400-foot towers, as well as the negative impact on the view shed, which some claimed go directly against the county’s comprehensive plan.
Among those in attendance at the meeting were several Mansfield University students, including Amber Abma, a junior from Towanda.
Abma spoke in favor of the turbines, following several people who talked about the negative impact the turbines will have on their property values and the environment such as “forest fragmentation,” or chopping up “deep forest” needed for some wildlife to survive.
“I’m going to be here long after you all are gone, and I’d rather have these things than a nuclear power plant with waste that no one knows what to do with,” she said.
Another property owner who has leased 1,000 acres of his land to AES, Charles Keefover, asked the audience members to “open your minds.”
“Taxation equals fragmentation,” he said. “What are you going to look at when these people log the top of that mountain so they can hang on to their property?”
By Cheryl R. Clarke
11 October 2007
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