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Energy company files challenge to Hegins Twp. zoning ordinance

Clean Air Generation LLC has filed a substantive validity challenge to Hegins Township’s zoning ordinance.

Although no project has been proposed, the Scranton-based renewable energy company is considering developing a wind energy farm on Rausch Creek property in an S-3 special purpose mining zone.

“We read the zoning and saw a legal imperfection,” Nick Cohen, Clean Air’s principal, said in a phone interview Thursday. The firm submitted an application for the challenge and is asking for a curative amendment. It would like to see wind energy development as an approved use in an S-3 zone.

In other parts of the state, and even within Schuylkill County, it is an approved use for a wind turbine in an S-3 zone, according to Cohen, who attended the township supervisors’ meeting June 5.

Attorney Charles B. Haws, with the law firm of Barley Snyder, Reading, represents CAG. He said Thursday a municipality’s zoning has to allow for all reasonable usage, and if it’s exclusionary, then it’s unconstitutional.

CAG proposes that the township amend Section 408 of the Hegins Township Zoning Ordinance, S-3, Special Purpose Mining, to allow the development of a wind energy facility as a permitted use.

Cohen’s company wants to work with township officials to see that the zoning defect is corrected and lists specifically where wind energy projects are allowed.

“It just doesn’t mention wind anywhere … but the safety ordinance is pretty extensive,” Cohen said.

Hegins Township Zoning Officer Allan Swab said wind energy facilities are currently a permitted use only in the municipality’s industrial zone, and the township is looking into any zoning ordinance corrections that may be needed. The township does have a wind energy safety ordinance that addresses several items, like ice buildup and setback distances of wind turbines to existing structures.

A date has not yet been set to hear CAG’s challenge. The township has 60 days from the company’s June 5 filing date to schedule the hearing before the township supervisors, according to Haws.

CAG entered a land lease and wind easement agreement with Rausch Creek Land LP, of Valley View, in March, according to Rob Feldman, Rausch Creek’s land use director. The agreement encompasses approximately 12,672 acres.

Tomer Droval of Doral Group Renewable Energy Resources Ltd., an alternative energy developer based in Israel, is also partnering with CAG on any potential project in Hegins Township, Cohen said.

The township challenge is the first phase in a long process if a wind energy project was to come to fruition, according to Cohen.

“We’re still evaluating,” he said.

CAG has several renewable energy projects under development in other parts of the state.

Feldman said the agreement with CAG for the land lease is not exclusive, meaning existing trail rider and hunting clubs could still use the property. Rausch Creek’s land includes mountain ridge tops that extend across several townships, including Bear Mountain and Good Spring Mountain near Hegins and Big Lick Mountain, Porter Township, near Tower City.