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Wind turbines in holding pattern; Next step for the proposed project will be determined by the courts

The next step in the effort to build a wind turbine project in Penn Forest Township is up in the air.

On Wednesday night, the Penn Forest zoning hearing board denied Atlantic Wind’s application for two special exceptions to build up to 37 wind turbines on property owned by the Bethlehem Water Authority. The zoning board proceeded with the hearing even though Atlantic Wind failed to show.

Atlantic Wind had filed notice the previous week that it deemed the application approved due to the hearing board’s failure to schedule additional meetings within the 45 days permitted under the Municipal Planning Code.

But, for the residents in opposition to the project, they have standing to appeal Atlantic Wind’s questionable approval since they had become a party to the hearings before the hearing board. Those opposing Atlantic Wind will have to file an appeal of the “deemed approval” to the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas,

“We are aware of the (zoning board’s) actions last night,” said Paul Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, Atlantic Wind’s parent company. “We are now considering our options.”

Another interested party to the application is property owner, The Bethlehem Water Authority, which owns the land on which the wind turbines and the operations building would be located.

“We are deferring our comments to Atlantic Wind,” said Steve Repasch, director of the Bethlehem Authority. “We know they filed a notice of deemed approval and that the zoning hearing board rejected the application last night. So I guess they are at odds. It will be up to the adjudicators and the attorneys to decide who is right.”

Atlantic Wind has already filed an appeal to the Commonwealth Court regarding an earlier decision filed by Judge Steven R. Serfass in the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas. Serfass had denied Atlantic Wind’s request to remove the matter from the zoning hearing board and replace it with an independent examiner.

Atlantic Wind had also claimed that the venue where the hearings were being heard was unsafe and requested use of the Carbon County Courthouse for additional hearing dates.

Serfass noted at the time that the zoning board’s solicitor had stated that the board had no objection to Atlantic Wind’s request that future hearings be held at the Carbon County Courthouse. Serfass said he would entertain a written agreement from the parties, which requested that future hearings be moved to the courthouse and coordinated with the court, the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department and the county commissioners’ office.

But on March 30, the Carbon County Board of Commissioners voted to deny the company’s request to use Courtroom 1 in the courthouse to conduct the hearings needed for the zoning application for its proposed project.