The Lycoming County commissioners will reveal Thursday where they stand regarding a proposed amendment to the county zoning ordinance as it pertains to wind energy.
During a work session Tuesday, chief county administrator Fred Marty said the commissioners will act on the amendment to allow electricity-generating wind turbines by right in areas zoned for resource protection.
Commissioners Rebecca A. Burke and Ernie P. Larson said they had no comment regarding the amendment.
Both, however, have said previously that by law the county zoning ordinance must provide for all types of uses, including wind energy, and in areas where they can function successfully.
Commissioner Dick Nassberg said he does not know how he will vote and will “continue to study facts and language to make sure we come up with the best balance of competing interests.”
“This is a complex issue,” Nassberg said. “You have to balance needs for progress against needs for preservation.”
“The issue is how to be on the forefront of economic and environmental capabilities while avoiding the disturbance of the things that make this county so special,” he said.
The ordinance now allows wind energy by right in countryside and agriculture zones, and by special exception granted by the county Zoning Hearing Board for resource protection zones.
The amendment would allow wind energy by right in all three zones.
County Planning Commission staff, including then-commission executive director Jerry S. Walls, proposed the amendment following a lengthy and often contentious Zoning Hearing Board hearing involving Vermont-based Laurel Hill Wind Energy Co.
The company applied for a special exception to build 47 388-foot-high wind turbines on a seven-mile stretch of Laurel Hill Ridge in northern Lycoming County zoned mostly for resource protection.
The application was supported by supervisors from Jackson and McIntyre townships, where the project was proposed, but strongly opposed by many residents living in the shadow of the ridge.
Walls said the amendment was needed to “clarify” the existing ordinance so the county could avoid a repeat of the Laurel Hill hearing, which was time-consuming and expensive.
The commissioners held a public hearing on the amendment on Oct. 22 at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
In other business, the commissioners will act on a professional services agreement with Nor East Mapping Inc. of Kylertown to provide aerial mapping of the commercial growth corridor between the boroughs of Muncy and Montoursville.
The maps will focus on Muncy Industrial Park, the Timber End property and the commercial area along Fairfield Road.
The agreement calls for the company to be paid $37,800 for the service, county Department of Planning and Community Development deputy director William Kelly said.
The maps will be consulted when planning water and sewer lines, roads and rail lines in the corridor, Kelly said.
According to Kelly, the company will provide photographs to show 1-foot contours.
Some of the aerial mapping the county now uses show 20-foot contours, which are practically useless, he said.
By David Thompson
14 November 2007
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