Plans for a proposed 34-turbine wind farm in Bear Creek Township will start back at the beginning of the approval process.
The state Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear an appeal of Energy Unlimited’s case to place 25 of a proposed 34 wind turbines on county-owned Theta land in the township. Ed Shoener, EUI’s project manager, said the company would resubmit an application with the township, though fewer turbines would be allowed at the site because of a new zoning ordinance in the township.
“We think this is still an important project and want it to move forward,” Shoener said. “We want to build a world class project there.”
Commonwealth Court rejected EUI’s plans for the 25 turbines in February, agreeing with supervisors and overruling Luzerne County President Judge Michael Conahan’s decision. Supervisors opposed EUI’s plans 2-1, saying they were too incomplete.
The other nine turbines were filed under a separate application, which supervisors also rejected. On Oct. 5, Commonwealth Court upheld Conahan’s decision in that case, affirming EUI’s zoning variance. Those nine turbines, however, cannot operate without the other 25, making that decision moot.
Bear Creek Solicitor Bill Vinsko said EUI’s decision to resubmit its plans is best for everyone.
“The township will continue to work with Energy Unlimited within the bounds of the ordinance,” he said. “They serve an aesthetic, environmental and a fiscal opportunity to the community and the area.”
If EUI resubmits plans to supervisors, far fewer turbines would likely be allowed than the original 25 proposed. In June 2006, supervisors adopted a wind turbine ordinance that limits how close the structures can be to streams, homes and other things.
A turbine cannot be placed within 1,500 feet of a property line, according to the ordinance. The existing wind farm on Bald Mountain was constructed prior to the wind turbine ordinance passing.
Shoener described the Supreme Court’s decision as a “procedural matter” and pointed out that it has no effect on the zoning variance for the other nine turbines. Typically, zoning variances must be followed within a year’s time and do not exist indefinitely.
EUI’s plans drew concern from environmentalists because of the proximity to Crystal Lake. Defend Our Watershed, an environmental group, filed appeals in the case.
Supervisor Ruth Koval said she has no problem with EUI submitting new plans.
“If they submit a plan that is correct and we can work with, I have no problem with it at all – as long as they follow our ordinances,” Koval said. “I am not against wind farms.”
By Coulter Jones
27 October 2007
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