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Township tables vote on wind farm permits  

Credit:  Beth LeBlanc, Times Herald | May 8, 2016 | www.thetimesherald.com ~~

Bridgehampton Township has delayed a decision on a special land use permit for a large wind farm development.

The township planning board canceled a June public hearing for Exelon special land use permit at its Tuesday meeting. It tabled the hearing until after a referendum vote in August.

“There is a referendum in the August election regarding the noticing of landowners and residents in the event of a special land use hearing,” Supervisor Michael Haggerty said.

The referendum is one of a few different efforts to stall a wind farm development planned for the area.

Bridgehampton residents have expressed concern in recent months about plans for the construction of 68 Exelon wind turbines in Bridgehampton, Custer and Marion townships.

Measuring about 499 feet in height, the windmills would generate about 150 megawatts of energy – enough to power about 44,000 average homes.

Some residents are concerned about setback changes in the township’s zoning ordinance made to accommodate Exelon’s project. Residents also have alleged there are conflicts of interest among members of the planning commission and board of trustees who hold leases with Exelon while voting on ordinance changes favorable to the project.

Kristen Otterness, a spokeswoman for Exelon, said the company is disappointed with the continued delay. She said the project stands to bring $50 million in benefits to the area.

“We’re evaluating the impact that this decision has on the project,” Otterness said. “But we’re still pursuing the project.”

Haggerty said he was unsure whether Exelon could appeal the planning commission’s decision to the zoning board of appeals.

While Bridgehampton residents continue to fight the wind farm development, residents in Marion Township are fighting a similar battle.

Marion Township Planning Commissioner Jon Block said more than 100 people gathered in a community center Thursday night to discuss Exelon’s plans for the community.

Block said the meeting followed a township board meeting where trustee Karl Buhl resigned from his position. Buhl is the second board member to resign; township Supervisor Arnold McVittie resigned in early March.

Trustee Mark Roberts was appointed to McVittie’s place Thursday, leaving two open trustee positions on the board. Those will be decided at the township’s May 25 meeting.

The board also voted Thursday to hire Spicer engineering group to consult on the special land use permit.

The company’s involvement comes in spite of a referendum petition that should stall any votes on the project until after August.

If the township insists on pushing forward with the special land use permit process, Block said residents will be prepared to take the issue to court.

“They were made adamantly aware (Thursday) night that any approval of a special land use permit would immediately be taken to court,” Block said.

“We would seek injunctive relief to squash the special land use permit….The township and all the trustees and board members would land in federal court for constitutional rights violations.”

Block said he expects the planning commission will hear from Spicer Group at its next meeting May 24.

Source:  Beth LeBlanc, Times Herald | May 8, 2016 | www.thetimesherald.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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