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Foster Township wind farm plans continue following zoning denial

EDF Renewable Energy will keep pursuing plans to build a wind farm in Foster Township despite an unfavorable zoning decision this week, an attorney for the firm said.

Attorney Jack Dean said people told him that they hoped to see him again as he left the meeting on Wednesday after the Foster zoning board rejected an application for a special exception to build up to 25 wind turbines in three locations of the township.

“The project will not be dropped. … There is a lot of support,” said Dean, who has offices in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

Opponents said the project posed risks while offering no tangible benefits such as discounts on electricity or taxes to residents. Turbines, they said, might cause flickering shadows and harm birds and bats. Developing land to build the turbines and access roads might cause water runoff, erosion or subsidence.

Dean said the company will try to reach out to the community to address concerns and persuade people of the merits of the project, which would generate electricity without releasing greenhouse gases.

The board voted 3-0 to reject EDF’s application, but two of the five members abstained from voting because they didn’t attend all the hearings on the project, which began months ago.

Two factors led the zoners to reject the plan.

The township’s planning commission determined that the wind turbines were not compatible with other permitted uses in the zoning districts where EDF Renewable Energy proposed putting them.

And the site plan that the company submitted wasn’t specific enough to comply with requirements. Three circles on a map included in the application indicated areas where the company wanted to install turbines, but the map didn’t show locations for individual turbines.

The zoning board has 45 days from Wednesday to provide a written denial to EDF Renewable Energy, which then would have 30 days to appeal the ruling to Luzerne County Court, board solicitor George Hludzik said.

EDF also could reapply for zoning approval, but a new application would have to comply with an ordinance that the township supervisors revised on Monday.

The revised ordinance limits the height of wind turbines to 450 feet, whereas EDF Renewable Energy proposed installing turbines as tall as 525 feet.

Turbines only are permitted in industrial zones in the revised ordinance, but two of the three areas that EDF sought to develop were outside industrial zones.

While EDF proposed building turbines 1,200 feet from homes and 577 feet from roads and power lines, the revised ordinance requires setbacks of 1,500 feet from property lines.

The company could follow its original plan if the board granted variances from the new ordinances at a subsequent hearing.

“We will take a look at the new ordinance,” Dean said.