The battle over whether to build a wind turbine project in Penn Forest Township continued through 2018.
During the course of 2018, both the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board and the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas heard testimony regarding the potential wind turbine operation.
The first application, filed in April 2016, for 37 wind turbines, was deemed approved and is being challenged in court. The 525-foot turbines are being proposed to be built on property owned by the Bethlehem Water Authority, which is used to produce water for the city of Bethlehem.
The Penn Forest zoning board saw a second special exception zoning application for a wind turbine facility with fewer but taller turbines in 2018. The new application is for 28 turbines that are nearly 600 feet tall.
The original application was deemed approved in May 2017 when a date for a hearing to be scheduled was missed by the zoning hearing board. The approval has been appealed to the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas.
Atlantic Wind petitioned the court to submit additional testimony to rebut the objectors’ testimony from zoning board hearings held before the deemed approval. The court agreed and appointed a special hearing officer.
In May, Carbon County Judge Steven Serfass appointed attorney William G. Schwab as referee to hear the testimony and to render his opinion to the court.
Two hearings took place before Schwab.
In November, Schwab recommended a denial of the original application.
He said the application “does not comply with the not to exceed sound standard under the Penn Forest Zoning Ordinance; would establish a second principal use of the land in contravention of the Penn Forest Zoning Ordinance; and that no hardship was shown for a service building in the R-2 District.”
The next argument in the case is scheduled on Feb. 26.
Atlantic Wind filed a second application in February before the zoning hearing board for up to 28 turbines that would be used in place of the first application if it is denied. The second application removed the service building from the R-2 District.
The zoning hearing board conducted hearings beginning in March, with testimony concluding in October. On Dec. 17 the hearing board met after reviewing the transcripts and findings of fact submitted by the applicant and the objectors and rendered a unanimous decision denying the application.
Members of the hearing board said the application was denied mainly due to the second principal use of the property and that the project was a “bad fit for the township.”
The hearing board now has 45 days to submit its written findings and denial. Atlantic Wind and the objectors will have an opportunity to appeal the hearing board’s ruling after the written findings are released.
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