Action by the Fayette County commissioners could clear the way for future wind turbine projects in the county.
The commissioners unanimously approved a motion Thursday to direct the county planning office to begin the procedure through the planning commission to amend the zoning ordinance regarding wind turbines and to make any recommendations the commission deems necessary.
The action was different than the proposal put forth during Tuesday’s agenda meeting, which specifically stated possibly changing the allowable height of wind turbines from 250 feet to 262.5 feet to reflect current industry standards.
Speaking for nearly 30 minutes prior to the action, Thomas John Bozek III of 875 Wymps Gap Road in Springhill Township urged the commissioners to look into changing the ordinance to reflect lower allowable decibel levels as well as setback requirements.
A proposed wind turbine project involving 24 wind turbines in Wharton, Georges and Springhill townships would call for erection of a turbine within 2,000 feet of Bozek’s home.
Bozek said he is concerned about the project destroying his quality of life. He has recording equipment that he fears will be rendered useless if the constant rumble of the wind turbines can be heard in his house.
Bozek said he purchased his mountain home a few years ago after surviving cancer and he wanted to have a sanctuary away from people and just wants to be left alone.
PPM Atlantic Energy/Iberdrola Renewables was denied a special exception request for the project by the county zoning hearing board but has appealed the denial and is seeking a way to move the project forward.
Bozek said he purchased his property in December 2006 and was unaware of any such plans.
“I always assumed an ordinance was in effect to protect the citizens,” Bozek said.
He asked if the zoning ordinance is changed to reflect current industry standards of 262.5 feet, and that increases in the future, where does one draw the line about how tall the turbines can be.
Bozek said with the 144-foot long blades taken into account, the proposed windmills are 407 feet high.
Bozek also expressed concern about the decibel levels at his property line, asking the commissioners to reduce the permissible level from 70 decibels to 55 decibels.
“I truly would like to work out a resolution,” Bozek said.
Commissioner Vincent A. Vicites said it is a worthy project and if Bozek’s concerns can be addressed, it is a “win-win.”
In approving the motion to begin the procedure to change the ordinance, Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink said when the current zoning ordinance was adopted in February 2006, it was the first time wind turbines were addressed.
She said the motion is to ask the planning commission to make recommendations on all aspects of the issue, and not just the height subject.
Vicites said he wanted the text of a potential ordinance change seeking to increase the permissible height to 265 feet included in the motion.
The proposed ordinance change came from Environmental Planning and Design, the consultant the county used to help draft the zoning ordinance.
“I think this is a good starting point, but when it was put on the agenda the focus was on height,” Vicites said of the motion.
Commission Chairman Vincent Zapotosky said he didn’t want the commissioners to be put in a position to direct the planning commission to do anything.
Zimmerlink said the planning commission could potentially make recommendations on “everything,” including decibel levels, variances and setbacks as well as height allowances.
The resolution will now be forwarded to the planning commission for discussion and to make recommendations. The commissioners will then hold a public meeting to discuss the recommendations and vote at a regular meeting to make any changes they deem necessary.
Although the planning commission makes recommendations, the commissioners ultimately make the decisions regarding what is included in the county zoning ordinance.
By Amy Zalar
25 July 2008
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