Fayette County commissioners will intervene in a civil lawsuit over proposed windmills in Georges and Springhill townships, but not necessarily because they favor or oppose the project.
Commissioners on Thursday voted 2-1 to file a notice of intervention in the lawsuit, which pits PPM Renewable Energy Corp. of Portland, Ore., against the county’s zoning hearing board.
PPM, which has offices in Perryopolis, filed the civil suit last month, after the zoning board denied its request for a special exception and variances for 24 wind turbines.
The turbines were to be part of the company’s South Chestnut Ridge Project, which calls for 27 wind turbines to be installed over a 3.5-mile section of Chestnut Ridge in Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships.
County Solicitor Joe Ferens said the notice is a method of ensuring the county has a voice in proceedings.
“It gives the county commissioners a right to a seat at the table,” Ferens said. “They want to have an opportunity to review what’s out there … and say to the judge, we either agree, or we don’t.”
Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Angela Zimmerlink voted in favor of filing the notice.
Zapotosky reiterated that the notice merely gives the county a say in the process, ensuring “that in the end, the right thing is done. What that may be, I don’t know.”
Zimmerlink said she voted to file the notice because she wants to address whether the county’s zoning ordinance was “properly enforced and interpreted.” In addition, she wants to ensure the zoning board “did not act in a legislative manner.”
Vicites said he voted against filing the notice because doing so will set a precedent for future cases. In addition, he said not enough public notice was given before yesterday’s vote.
A number of residents yesterday spoke in either support or opposition of the project.
John Kopas, of Georges, said he favors it, even though the turbines will be visible from his residence.
“In my view, the view would not be negatively impacted whatsoever,” Kopas said. “The view shed will continue to remain, but for the windmills.”
Eric Williams, of Skyline Drive, said one of the proposed turbines will be just 3,100 feet from his house. At least nine houses are within 3,000 feet of the turbines, which he said are more than six times higher than the 60-foot tall cross at Dunbar’s Knob on the Jumonville center.
Suggesting that the project likely is “unstoppable” at this point, Williams asked the county to find a way, at the least, to move the proposed turbines farther away from houses.
In other matters, commissioners directed the Election Bureau to develop a plan to purge thousands of inactive voters from its database and tabled until later this month a motion to transfer a $1.7 million budgetary surplus from the general fund into various accounts.
By Liz Zemba
9 May 2008
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