A Uniontown attorney wants Fayette County to order the shutdown of about two dozen wind turbines, but a spokesman with the Oregon company that owns them says there are no grounds to force a stoppage.
In a letter delivered late Monday to the county’s Office of Planning, Zoning and Community Development, Gary Altman asked the county to order Iberdrola Renewables of Portland to stop operating approximately 22 wind turbines in its South Chestnut Wind Project near Farmington.
Altman contends the turbines don’t comply with a number of conditions set by the county’s zoning hearing board in 2009, including setbacks, decommissioning bonds, noise levels and measures to protect bats.
“Pending compliance, we request that you order the turbines shut off,” Altman said in the letter. “We believe this request to be reasonable in view of the fact that several of these (zoning hearing board) conditions were to be met before the start of operations, and this developer has consistently and repeatedly ignored Fayette County’s ordinances and tried to delay any enforcement of them, all the while knowing full well that its project was constructed without required permits and approvals.”
Art Sasse of Iberdrola said the company has no plans to shut down the wind farm because it complies with zoning regulations.
“Our South Chestnut wind farm is fully compliant with the current zoning ordinance and will continue to operate as it has for several years now,” Sasse said.
In the years since Altman has battled Iberdrola over the windmills on behalf of Springhill resident Thomas J. Bozek, Fayette revised its zoning governing wind turbines that might render the appeals moot, according to court documents in one of the appeals.
Altman said the turbines are too close to Bozek’s property, rendering a portion of it unusable because of the noise they generate.
“The biggest issue is, he has a domino-shaped piece of property, and the top half is close to the turbines,” Altman said. “They have effectively taken that piece of property off of him. You can’t build on it because of the noise.”
Altman’s letter to the county is dated five days after the state Supreme Court, in an Aug. 19 order, denied Iberdrola’s request to appeal a 2014 Commonwealth Court decision. In that decision, the court upheld conditions the zoning hearing board placed on the windmills in 2009.
According to a March 11 supplemental opinion prepared by the Commonwealth Court judges, those conditions included construction of 12-foot-high chain link fences around the turbines, planting vegetation to replace trees and shrubs removed during the turbines’ construction, implementing measures to protect bats and conducting sound studies.
The wind turbines formerly were associated with PPM Atlantic Renewable, which was acquired by Iberdrola Renewables in 2005.
According to Iberdrola’s website, the South Chestnut Wind Project began operating in 2011 and comprises 23 wind turbines in Georges, Springhill and Wharton townships.
Only the wind turbines in Georges and Springhill are affected by the litigation because Wharton has its own zoning rules. Zoning in Georges and Springhill is governed by the county’s ordinance.
Sara Rosiek, director of the county’s planning office, said Iberdrola in June notified her it posted decommissioning bonds on the turbines, meeting at least one of the requirements cited in Altman’s letter. She said she is arranging to meet with county solicitor Sheryl Heid to review the letter and other issues raised by Altman.
Heid did not return a phone call seeking comment.
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