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Carbondale Twp. residents raise concerns over possibility of wind farm

The same company that built wind turbines throughout Wayne County has its sights set on the Upvalley for a new wind farm, but residents are concerned.

About 30 Upvalley residents filled the Meredith Hose Company in Carbondale Twp. on Thursday for the monthly township supervisors meeting, discussing the impact wind turbines could have on their community and giving supervisors suggestions on taxation, protecting property values and homes.

Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, which constructed the Waymart Wind Energy Center in 2003, accrued nearly a dozen easements and property transactions in the Midvalley and Upvalley over the past two years. However, Carbondale Twp. officials repeatedly emphasized to residents Thursday night that they have not received any official requests.

Doing business as Waymart Wind II LLC, NextEra purchased three acres in Archbald near Routes 6 and 107, according to a property transaction recorded March 13. It also obtained easements in Archbald, Carbondale city, Fell Twp. and Jefferson Twp.

Last month, NextEra officials presented informal plans in Carbondale Twp. for a 24-turbine wind farm that spans several municipalities. Eight of the turbines would be in the township. The wind turbines, which would be west of Route 6, would run north from the township to Union Dale.

By comparison, the Waymart Wind Energy Center has 43 1.5-megawatt turbines, according to the company. Those turbines are visible along Route 6 in Wayne County close the Lackawanna County line.

Attempts to reach NextEra officials were unsuccessful Thursday.

NextEra would have transmission lines in Archbald, and it is looking into constructing a facility in the borough to link up with PPL Electric Utilities for power distribution, Archbald borough Manager Jack Giordano said. The transmission lines are considered a public utility, “so it allows them to do it more or less,” but the facility would need zoning approval, he said.

According to the easements, NextEra “intends to develop the Waymart II Wind Farm project, a wind farm in Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties.”

During last month’s meeting in Carbondale Twp., supervisors passed an ordinance to make wind turbines a special exception in their zoning while also establishing safeguards for the community regarding noise, height, setback distances and other restrictions.

Regulations include requiring applicants to provide visual depictions of how the wind turbines would look in the township, limiting noise to 55 decibels measured at the exterior of any occupied building or non-participating landowner’s property and establishing setback requirements based on the height of the wind turbines.

Before the meeting, Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Figliomeni explained that the township didn’t have anything about wind turbines in its zoning, nor any regulations in place.

“We can’t stop them from bringing windmills in,” he said. “We had to establish some kind of rules and regulations that we could go by and they could go by.”

The company will still need zoning hearing board approval to construct any turbines in the township, Figliomeni said.

However, a group of concerned residents who believe regulations need to be stronger have formed a grassroots group called Waymart II Community.

At Thursday’s meeting, Sharrie Woody discussed the impact wind turbines could have on endangered bat species in the area. She challenged a comment made earlier by Supervisor Frank Lapka about noise from turbines, saying, “Don’t tell me you can’t hear them – and you can hear them even more when the wind is more pronounced” and during the winter.

“I must have bad hearing,” Lapka said.

Theresa Okrak requested a property setback further than 1,400 feet, saying, “That’s 500 yards. That’s nothing.”

Bob Rossi asked that, if the plan come to fruition, supervisors establish an agreement guaranteeing property values prior to the installation of wind turbines, and that “they would be fully responsible for reimbursing the landowners for any loss that would be incurred” from a decrease in property values or any other issues that arise.

John Uram asked supervisors to consider taxing wind turbines on megawatt production rather than receiving a flat fee like other townships, and to bring the Carbondale Area School District into negotiations.

William Fife asked the supervisors to form an advisory committee comprised of residents, although the supervisors disagreed.

“Everybody wants green (energy) until it’s in their backyards,” he said after the meeting.