Tioga County planners work on ‘problem resolution’; citizens group awaits judge’s decision about appeal
The Tioga County Planning Commission is taking a second look at ways to deal with problems that could come along with a giant wind turbine project that it already granted “conditional preliminary approval,” Tioga County planner Jim Weaver said in a phone interview Thursday.
Wind energy company AES has filed an application with the commission to construct more than 120 wind turbines on Armenia Mountain. However, in January, a citizens group filed litigation in Tioga County court, appealing the commission’s action at its Dec. 12 meeting.
The group claims the project is not in compliance with a county land development and subdivision ordinance and that the commission “acted capriciously, abused its discretion and committed errors of law” in several manners.
Covington Township resident Leon Kocher, who has attended many of the meetings on the AES application, said he worked for Bethlehem Steel as an internal consultant for data processing.
“It was my job to solve problems,” he said. “I reviewed the application and had talked to Jim (Weaver) about potential problems with the turbines after they are up because some of them may be too close to residences not on land they (AES) have leased,” he said.
Potential problems include shadow flicker from the rotating 400-foot blades and noise from the turbine engines.
“In their application, they are vague about how they will address potential problems,” Kocher said of AES.
He added that the unfinished zoning ordinance is referenced in their application, but because it is not finished, “there is no ordinance.”
Weaver said the commission is looking at implementing some kind of “problem resolution.”
“We will be working on some standards to handle potential shadow flicker and noise problems. We may look at a stand-alone wind ordinance or amendments to our zoning ordinance. Wind energy is addressed (in the zoning ordinance) but the timing of that may be too far in the future for a problem management component to address this project,” he said.
As it stands now, “if a land owner called me with a complaint about noise, I would log that, call the company and they would have to provide us with a rebuttal of how they will handle the complaint,” Weaver said.
“Mr. Kocher’s concern is who will follow up at the county level,” he added.
“The planning commission anticipated that after construction there won’t be that many issues because of the filtering process and review,” Weaver said, “so it shouldn’t be that much of a burden on the commission to follow up on it. It is still in its infancy so there is more to come. The entire project is in limbo with the appeal.
“Until the judge has a ruling on where the land use appeal is, there won’t be much movement on their (AES) end,” he added.
The commission will continue to “check off the conditions as they (AES) satisfy them,” Weaver added, but will not be able to give them clearance to start construction until the judge makes a decision on the appeal.
“We submitted our answers to the appeal last week so the appellate has the opportunity to respond. It is in the hands of the court,” he said.
“AES anticipated starting construction in June, and so I am assuming they will have met all the conditions by then. That is, assuming the appeal has been settled,” Weaver added.
By Cheryl R. Clarke
15 February 2008
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