POTTSVILLE – The Schuylkill County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved sending a letter to the county commissioners urging an immediate update to the 2010 zoning ordinance.
Nearly 40 people packed into the Hoffman Room of the Schuylkill County Courthouse for the meeting. Many of them were there for two reasons – to seek an amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance addressing wind turbines and to express opposition to Aqua Pennsylvania’s plans for the Eagle Rock ER-7 well station.
Virginia Morton, with the grass-roots, online citizens’ group she formed, Schuylkill County Wind Energy Concerns, wants to amend the county’s zoning ordinance to permit industrial wind turbines only by special exception.
Morton, of Tower City, said more than 170 names have been collected on a petition SCWEC began circulating and the group is seeking more signatures. Porter Twp. and Tower City borough both requested that a curative amendment be passed, and that all permitting of new wind energy projects in the county should be delayed under “pending ordinance doctrine.”
Morton also read a letter from Laurie J. Goodrich, director of long-term monitoring at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, about the turbine’s possible affects on the raptor and avian population, and some energy alternatives.
Paul Ruth, a Tower City councilman and water authority member, also addressed the commission. He said the borough currently has water problems during heavy rains with water coming down off the mountainside. He predicts even more trouble if wind turbines are erected. Also, there’s the concern of well head protection for the community’s safe drinking water, Ruth noted.
The citizens’ efforts are in response to Clean Air Generation LLC leasing 12,672 acres from Rausch Creek Land LLP in Porter, Frailey, Tremont and Hegins townships. CAG is interested in a possible industrial wind farm site, although no specific project has yet been formally proposed.
Others addressing the commission on the wind turbine matter were Shirley Wagner and Ralph Lucht. Another woman said she supported green energy efforts, which can bring in jobs.
Morton said her group is not seeking a total ban of green energy or wind projects, just for the county to revisit the zoning of those projects because a lot has changed since 2010.
In other action, the commission gave conditional approval to Aqua Pennsylvania for its well station project. The condition was that the company met all the permit requirements from the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Schuylkill Conservation District before the planning commission’s next meeting in November.
Another condition that board member Anthony Prudenti asked to be included was that if the company plans to do anything additional, that Aqua must come before the planning commission once again. Member Bob Lettich cast the lone dissenting vote, and the motion passed 5-1.
This May, Aqua released a statement saying it would improve or replace wells at no cost to property owners before starting to pull water from the ER-7 well, according to Standard-Speaker archives. Representatives from Aqua were on hand to answer questions from the commission.
Meanwhile, several residents expressed skepticism about Aqua’s plans and asked what the commission’s scope could be in regard to the project.
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