Wind farm firm challenges township ordinances as municipality opens review.
BEAR CREEK TWP. – The township planning commission provided a forum for local residents to review and challenge the township ordinances at Monday night’s meeting.
Any resident, business or other property holder in the township was advised to fill out a document for review by the township supervisors.
The township supervisors will vote on the new ordinances on Feb. 11, according to Jack Varaly, a consultant from Pasonick Engineering.
Varaly admitted the township ordinances require significant updating. Past ordinances and maps were the “worst representation” he’d ever dealt with, he said. He said it may take several months to finalize the ordinances and detailed township map.
He emphasized the township is making an “extraordinary effort” to address concerns.
The first challenge came from Energy Unlimited, the California-based company, aiming to construct 34 electricity-generating wind turbines. each approximately 350 feet high, according to Ed Shoener, president of Shoener Environmental Consulting Services, Dickson City. Shoener serves as the liaison between Energy Unlimited and the township.
“Energy Unlimited is committed to finishing this project because it is good for the community,” Shoener said. If approved, the turbines will stand on approximately 200 acres of Luzerne County-owned land currently leased by Energy Unlimited.
Shoener read a letter to the commission from Wilkes University professor Ken Klemow, who studied the current township ordinances and proclaiming them to be “arbitrary” and “unsophisticated,” essentially a version of “bad law.”
Klemow wrote that although he understands the township’s concerns, they do not have adequate proof of potential environmental risks associated with the turbines. Claiming an expertise in federal and state regulations, local animal life, watersheds and plant life, Klemow advised the township to allow the project to move forward.
Varaly said the points brought up by Shoener are a repeat of the case made during the legal wrangle of the last two years. He recommended Energy Unlimited submit a request for a change to the ordinance that includes specifics.
“The developer has to prove there is no environmental damage, not just do a critique,” Varaly said.
Shoener admits the process of attaining the authorization to build the wind farm is back to square one. Once completed the turbines can provide enough electricity for 50,000 homes, he said.
Several other residents approached the commission complaining about zoning changes on their property and vague rules about zoning decisions.
Patricia Lewin told the commission she did not learn that half of her property was zoned for “conservation” for about 10 years.
“The residents were not properly notified,” she said, adding any upgrades to the ordinances should be better communicated.
“The township does not work well with property owners,” she said.
By Ralph Nardone
29 January 2008
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