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Disputed wind turbine issue heads to court; appeal filed

The dispute over a proposed wind turbine farm in Penn Forest Township heads to court again Tuesday.

On May 17 after seven public hearings, the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board denied Atlantic Wind’s application to construct up to 37 wind turbines and an operations/safety building on property belonging to the Bethlehem Water Authority. The board issued a written decision of its findings on June 28.

The board held the May 17 hearing even though Atlantic Wind had advertised a public notice of “Deemed Approval” on May 5.

The board, as well as objectors to the application Philip Malitsch and Christopher Mangold and Penn Forest Township have all petitioned the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas to strike the deemed approval. A hearing into the matter has been set for Tuesday.

Appeal filed

On July 28, Atlantic Wind filed an appeal, asking the court to reverse the zoning board’s decision to deny its application.

According to the filing,“As a precautionary measure in the event the Deemed Approval is not upheld by this court, Atlantic Wind hereby appeals the Decision of the ZHB. The decision of the ZHB is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, not based upon substantial evidence, an error of law, unsupported by applicable case law and without basis in law or fact.”

The appeal relies heavily on claims that Atlantic Wind’s procedural due process rights were violated and resulted in Atlantic Wind not receiving a fair and impartial hearing due to physical threats of violence made against a number of its employees and their families, the venue being unsafe, and that the board failing to maintain an orderly process during the hearings.

Atlantic Wind’s appeal also includes claims that the board has had “improper ex parte” communications with the public and that the board has accepted documentation from such sources into the record. Also that the board “took on an adversarial role during the hearings and exhibited bias against appellant.”

The zoning hearing board will now have an opportunity to file an answer refuting Atlantic Wind’s assertions and defending its findings.