VALLEY VIEW – After two hours of testimony Thursday on a proposed curative amendment to the township’s zoning ordinance, Hegins Township supervisors voted to continue the public hearing to 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
The amendment would address wind turbines and provide for land planning, installation and construction of wind energy facilities within the township, and set conditions to protect the public health, safety and welfare of its residents.
Testimony included how any potential wind turbines erected could impact operations at the Joe Zerbey Airport; military training with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and Fort Indiantown Gap; and homeowners’ safety and property values. Supervisors also heard how the proposed amendment could affect wind energy developers, and how a decision on the township’s zoning map could unintentionally affect mining operations for Rausch Creek.
More than 20 people attended the public hearing in the township municipal garage. Township solicitor Donald G. Karpowich oversaw the proceedings.
“Someone’s going to hit them,” Bill Willard, Schuylkill County Joe Zerbey Airport general manager, testified when questioned about any potential wind turbine placement within the township, which is about 11 miles away from the airport in Mount Pleasant. Willard also said there was the potential that the turbines could affect a pilot’s approach to the airport and could interfere with radio signals. The airport, which used a $1.6 million investment to extend its runway, is used for corporate business travel, private pilots, training by the DMVA and by emergency medical flight crews, he said.
Jack R. Varaly, of Wilkes-Barre, a special planning consultant hired by Hegins Township, drafted the proposed curative amendment. Varaly said neither the township’s planning commission nor the Schuylkill County Planning Commission offered any comment on the curative amendment. A major part of the curative amendment would include a Renewable Energy Overlay District in the S-3 Special Purpose mining district where commercial wind turbines would be allowed.
In addition to Willard, those offering comments Thursday included Nicholas Cohen, principal of Clean Air Generation LLC, and the company’s attorney, Charles B. Haws, of Reading.
CAG has proposed building a wind energy project, with a maximum of up to 83 wind turbines total; up to 40 possible in Hegins Township and the remaining in Porter, Tremont and Frailey townships. They would be 499 feet or less in height.
The company has proposed turbines on approximately 12,672 acres that CAG acquired through a land lease and wind easement agreement with Rausch Creek. In June, CAG submitted a “substantive validity challenge” to the township asserting that the township’s current zoning ordinance was deficient because it did not address where wind energy development could occur.
Haws noted that CAG had already filed appropriate paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FAA had not yet made a determination on any presumed hazards. The FAA filing is public record, Cohen said. Haws also said CAG would adhere to the township’s wind energy safety ordinance it already has in place.
Others providing comments or questions were attorney Martin J. Cerullo, of Pottsville, representing the Schuylkill County Airport Authority; Bruce Anders, of Wilkes-Barre, representing Kris Wetzel and Rocky Slope Inc., objectors; attorney Jeffrey Wallitsch, of Annville, representing the DMVA; and John D. Fronko, director of the Bureau of Environmental Management with the DMVA.
Wallitsch asked that language be included in the amendment in regard to promoting, protecting and facilitating national defense facilities and that when a wind turbine application was received by the township that a notice be sent to advisers at Fort Indiantown Gap about the application.
Anders reviewed two prior energy developers’ attempts to establish wind turbines in the township, BP Wind Energy and Tradewinds. Both dropped their plans. At that time, township residents were erroneously led to believe wind turbines were only allowed in an I-1, general industrial zone, he noted.
Anders recommended some changes to the language in the amendment that addressed vibrations, height, ice throw, set back distances and that a property value guarantee be added. The interests of residents in the Hunter’s Mountain and Spring Hill development areas in the township’s west end should be protected, according to Anders.
Attorney Gretchen C. Sterns, representing Rausch Creek, said the zoning map the township is considering would take hundreds of acres out of the S-3 district and reduce Rausch Creek’s access to some of the best coal mining available in the Lykens Valley Vein.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding