VALLEY VIEW – After hearing 45 minutes of comments from the public Monday, supervisors adopted a curative amendment to Hegins Township’s zoning ordinance specific to wind energy.
Several citizens who oppose a wind energy project proposed by Clean Air Generation LLC spoke up about the need for the township supervisors to protect residents’ and property owners’ best interests, the interests of Fort Indiantown Gap and the Schuylkill County Airport Authority, and also suggested the township’s amendment should closely resemble the one approved by the Schuylkill County commissioners last week.
The Waverly wind energy company, meanwhile, said the township’s proposed amendment was not viable, and sought site-specific relief. CAG has proposed up to 83 wind turbines total in the county of 499 feet in height or less. Forty turbines are possible in Hegins Township, with the remaining proposed turbines in Frailey, Porter and Tremont townships.
Although Hegins Township already has a Wind Energy Safety Ordinance in place, the township ordinance did not list anywhere within the township where wind energy development could occur, prompting the need for the amendment.
Supervisor Chairman Doug Lucas said anyone opposed to the curative amendment would have 30 days to appeal to the Schuylkill County Court of Common Pleas. The board of supervisors voted 4-0 to grant CAG’s substantive validity challenge to its ordinance, however, denied the curative amendment that CAG had suggested to permit wind energy projects in the township’s S-3 special purpose mining zone by right.
The township, instead, adopted the curative amendment which was prepared by John “Jack” R. Varaly, a Wilkes-Barre professional planning consultant. The township agreed that CAG’s challenge had merit, but the township came up with its own cure to the zoning deficit. Under the curative amendment, principal wind energy facilities may be permitted as a conditional use in the S-3 special purpose mining district. The cure, in part, also addresses many other factors, including setback distances, turbine separation, insurance, decommissioning when the turbines are no longer viable, noise level, lighting and shadow flicker.
Supervisor Brad Carl was absent.
Attorney Charles Haws, of Barley Snyder, Reading, presented a 9-page letter to the board of supervisors on behalf of CAG, dated Feb. 5. “CAG has already suffered significant damage associated with the township’s delay in resolving the zoning issue. Any further delay will only serve to compound those damages,” it said.
“If the supervisors wanted to amend the Wind Energy Safety Ordinance or enact an amendment to the zoning ordinance, the time to do so was before CAG submitted its substantive validity challenge and proposed its curative amendment. Every action the township has taken since that time, regarding this project, has been unlawful,” the letter states.
Citizens who offered comment included township residents Roger Wetzel, Ralph Lucht and Frank Mohan; and Porter Township resident Virginia Morton.
State Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, Pottsville, noted a prior wind energy project was proposed in 2012, and now another one is “rearing its head again.” He said people had valid concerns, including the regional economic impact a wind turbine project could have on Fort Indiantown Gap, the second-largest aviation training facility in the country; and on the Schuylkill County Airport.
Tobash suggested that CAG had been offered some financial incentive not to develop its project; and urged the company to look for an alternative site for its wind energy development.
Nick Cohen, CAG principal, said there would be hundreds of millions of dollars generated for the local economy through job creation and use of local vendors, and his company is obligated to pay taxes. He said 12 to 15 full-time people would be hired.
“There’s going to be no permanent jobs that come out of this. That’s a bunch of bull,” said attorney Bruce Anders, of Wilkes-Barre, representing Kris Wetzel and Rocky Slope Inc., and objectors with adjacent property. Attorney Martin J. Cerullo, of Pottsville, representing the Schuylkill County Airport Authority; and Jeffrey Wallitsch, of Annville, an attorney representing the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at Fort Indiantown Gap, also attended the hearing but did not address the board of supervisors.
After the meeting, Cohen did not say if his company would appeal. “We’re going to evaluate the facts of this evening and decide what to do next,” he said. Cohen said in response to Tobash’s statements, that no one has offered his company anything, financially or otherwise, to leave the area or drop the project.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding