Vermont-based Laurel Hill Energy LLC has taken a step forward in its plans to build a commercial electricity-generating wind farm on a ridge in Jackson and McIntyre townships in northern Lycoming County.
As expected, the company has submitted a new zoning permit application for the facility, according to county zoning administrator Fred G. Pfeiffer.
Pfeiffer said he has 30 days to determine if the application is complete. After the application is completed, he has 75 days to decide if it conforms to the county zoning ordinance, he said.
The application is not open to public review during the initial 30-day review period, he said.
The county Planning Commission also must review and approve land development plans for the project.
A zoning permit application is required for any development or change of use of a property to ensure it is permitted in that zoning district and complies with zoning regulations, he said.
Most of the wind farm project will be located in an area zoned as a resource protection district. Until recently, wind energy development in a resource protection zone could only be allowed by a special exception permit approved by the county Zoning Hearing Board.
Laurel Hill Wind Energy initially proposed the wind project about four years ago and applied for a special exception permit. After a hearing lasting almost 18 months, the board denied the application.
The company appealed the decision in county court. When a county judge denied the appeal, the company appealed that ruling.
The commissioners last November approved an amendment to the county zoning ordinance allowing wind energy development in a resource protection zone. The amendment cleared the way for the company to drop its appeal and reapply for a permit through the zoning administrator.
According to Pfeiffer, the scope of the wind energy company’s plans look “similar” to the plans submitted to the Zoning Hearing Board.
The company had originally proposed building 47, 388-foot wind turbines over a seven-mile stretch of the ridge, but changed the project scope to 35 taller turbines.
The company’s application is extensive and contains studies by hydrologists and engineers, Pfeiffer said.
Robert Charlebois, managing director of Laurel Hill’s parent company Catamount Energy Corp., said the company plans to abide by agreements it has already made with Jackson and McIntyre townships.
The company agreed to pay the townships $2 million over 20 years. The money will be divided between the townships, according to how many wind towers will be built in each.
By David Thompson
20 February 2008
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