Residents asked council to appeal a zoning hearing board decision that will allow the Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit to erect a windmill at its main station.
Three North Street residents asked Doylestown Council this week to appeal a decision the Doylestown Zoning Hearing Board rendered last week that would allow Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit to erect a 60-foot wind turbine at its main station.
The residents also handed the council a petition signed by them and 23 of their neighbors who agree with them. The signors represent 17 households.
“I don’t know what happened (when the zoning board made its decision), but what happened was not right,” said Kendra DeHaven. “There was a salesman, and the zoning hearing board took his word and granted approval.”
The ambulance company’s main station is in a residential district, where the zoning ordinance limits the heights of structures to 35 feet. The ambulance company had requested a variance to the height restrictions in the borough’s zoning ordinance, so it could install a 60-foot wind turbine on its property.
To get a variance, an applicant must prove that the property has “unique physical circumstances or conditions” that cause an “unnecessary hardship” and prevent the property owner from using the property in accordance with the zoning ordinance.
Central Bucks Ambulance Chief Chuck Pressler told the zoning hearing board last week that he had considered other alternative energy sources, such as geothermal energy and solar panels, but they were too expensive. The ambulance company got a $24,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to install the wind turbine.
Karl Douglass, a co-founder of the company that makes the wind turbines, said the wind turbine has to reach over the treetops because “surrounding vegetation tends to create turbulence.”
Asked if they had consulted an arborist about whether they could reduce the height of the trees and keep them alive, Douglass and Pressler said, “No.”
Pressler also said there was nothing that would prevent the ambulance company from using the property as it was.
DeHaven and several other residents argued against the variance request, saying they thought the tall windmill was not appropriate for their neighborhood. DeHaven said the windmill would create flickering lights that would have an adverse effect on her son, who has a seizure disorder.
Zoning hearing board member Charles Scott said the residents made “compelling arguments,” but the board agreed that the tall trees on the property created a hardship because they prevented the ambulance company from installing a shorter wind turbine. Scott also said the board wanted to support green initiatives.
Rick and Lisa Crawford, of North Street, told council Monday that they didn’t believe the ambulance company had presented enough proof that a hardship existed.
“Central Bucks Ambulance couldn’t say it wouldn’t alter the character of the community,” DeHaven said. “Regardless of if it’s green or not, they didn’t prove it’s the least intrusive solution.”
Many members of Doylestown Council were quiet throughout the residents’ comments. And council took no action on the residents’ request.
Council President Det Ansinn said after the meeting that council would consider whether to appeal the zoning hearing board decision after it sees the board’s written ruling.
Pressler said Wednesday that he believes the zoning hearing board approved his variance request for “the right reasons.” He said he planned to add an alternative energy source at the ambulance station with the best intentions for the environment and use of taxpayer money in mind.
And he took the neighbors’ concerns in mind before he moved forward, he said. That’s why the windmill will be erected on the side of the station that faces 7-Eleven, and not on the side that faces residential properties.
Pressler does not believe the wind turbine will cause the problems the North Street neighbors think it will. He said, “As an ambulance company, we wouldn’t do anything that would cause any harm to our fellow citizens.”
In related news, Doylestown Council approved a zoning ordinance amendment that regulates the use, size and placement of solar and wind energy equipment.
Wind energy equipment is now allowed in the borough if the zoning hearing board grants a special exception.
Solar energy and wind energy equipment must be located on the property it serves. It may not generate more than 50 kilowatts of maximum output for a residential use or 100 kilowatts of maximum output for a non-residential use.
No free-standing solar energy or wind energy equipment may be located in the front yard, though roof-mounted solar panels visible from the front yard are allowed.
Roof-mounted solar panels may not project more than 6 inches above the plane of the roof.
Wind turbines cannot be mounted on residential buildings. Wind energy equipment cannot be taller than 35 feet on lots less than 1 acre in net area. On larger lots, wind energy equipment can be up to 65 feet tall. Wind turbines must be white, off-white or gray.
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