A proposal to put wind turbines on the rural ridges surrounding Bethlehem’s reservoirs is back in Carbon County Court.
The Bethlehem Authority, which owns the land, on Feb. 28 appealed the most recent zoning rejection, arguing the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board “abused its discretion” by not granting a special exception for the 28-turbines earlier this year.
Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, has an agreement with the authority to build the project on 260 acres of land near Hatchery Road, also known as Reservoir Road.
The land is part of the 23,000 acres in Carbon and Monroe counties that is owned by the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city’s water business.
The written zoning decision, dated Jan. 30, says Atlantic Wind failed to comply with the zoning code, specifically a section about principal and accessory uses in residential zones.
The denial is the second time the Zoning Hearing Board rejected the wind energy proposal. The first time was earlier in 2017, when the company proposed 37 turbines for the property.
But Atlantic Wind argued that the board missed a legal deadline to make the decision, and it had “deemed approval.” That debate is still before the Carbon County Court.
For nearly three years, the proposal has generated opposition from many residents. Residents and other opponents have argued the turbine project would hurt property values, the environment, water quality and the region’s tourism industry.
The Bethlehem Authority disagrees that water quality would be hurt and has argued the project would, overall, benefit the environment by creating more alternative energy. The project also stands to make the Bethlehem Authority about $100,000 (or 3 percent of the gross revenue, whichever is higher) a year while advancing its green energy initiatives, which also include a carbon credit program.
The authority entered into the wind energy project with Atlantic Wind in 2013.
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