Clean Air Generation and Anthracite Ridge, the companies that want to build a wind turbine project in Schuylkill County, are suing the county’s Planning Commission in light of the pending curative amendment to the county zoning ordinance.
On Sept. 4, the Schuylkill County Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring the county’s existing ordinance “to be substantively invalid with respect to use of property” for business ventures such as wind turbines, natural gas compression stations and facilities associated with medicinal marijuana. The county then began to develop a “curative amendment” for those three business ventures to the existing zoning ordinance, which was last revised in 2010.
In the lawsuit, Clean Air Generation, of Abington Township, and Anthracite Ridge, a Wilmington, Delaware, limited liability company, name CAG as the equitable owner of certain parcels of land located in Tremont, Frailey, Porter and Hegins townships, pursuant to a lease with Rausch Creek Land and Rausch Creek Industrial Park. The lease is dated March 1, 2019. The lands encompass more than 12,000 acres.
According to the lawsuit, dated Oct. 15, CAG and AR submitted a zoning permit application Sept. 11, 2019. On Sept. 17, 2019, county solicitor Glenn Roth returned the application to counsel for the companies, Charles Haws, Reading. According to the municipal planning code, once an ordinance is declared invalid, the county has 180 days from that date to develop a curative amendment. During the 180 days, no permits will be issued for such ventures.
The stance of CAG and AR is that “the commission has a legal obligation to review the zoning permit application subject to the provisions of the county’s zoning ordinance, which was in effect Sept. 11 when the zoning permit application was filed.” That the commission failed to accept the application leaves the plaintiff “without adequate legal remedy.”
CAG and AR also state that the existing county zoning ordinance permitted wind turbines by right in the industrial commercial and conservation mining districts but had no language regarding marijuana growing/processing and dispensing. Therefore, CAG and AR say, the curative amendment was appropriate only for uses not currently addressed in the zoning ordinance.
“If the county wants to revise its zoning ordinance regarding wind turbines, it needs to advertise a zoning amendment and conduct a hearing as set out in the (municipal planning code); however, the plaintiffs are entitled to have their zoning permit application reviewed immediately under the zoning ordinance in effect as of Sept. 11, 2019,” the companies state in the lawsuit.
In the draft for the proposed “curative amendment” to the county’s zoning ordinance, the use of wind turbines in the industrial commercial and conservation mining districts would change from “allowed by right” to requiring a “special exception.”