A Carbon County judge has sided with two property owners who appealed the construction of 37 wind turbines on Bethlehem Authority-owned property, arguing the structures would be too loud and ruin their property values.
The judge also ruled that a special exception the turbine company, Atlantic Wind LLC, was seeking should be vacated because Atlantic Wind failed to show the project will comply with Penn Forest Township zoning codes.
The judge’s ruling is the latest in drawn out legal proceedings surrounding the project, which the authority entered into with Atlantic Wind in 2013 and stood to make about $100,000 a year from.
The company can’t prove the turbines won’t exceed decibel levels outlined in the township’s ordinance, said Judge Steven R. Serfass in a 61-page opinion on April 21.
In addition, Bethlehem Authority land is already used to collect potable water. Constructing turbines on authority land would constitute a second principal use within a residential district, which is also in violation of township zoning, Serfass wrote.
He also sided with property owners Phillip Malitsch and Christopher Mangold who filed an appeal in May 2017 against township zoners, Atlantic Wind and the Bethlehem Authority.
Malitsch and Mangold’s chief concern was about noise.
“While we are disappointed, we certainly aren’t surprised at the judge’s decision given the political climate in Penn Forest Township and Carbon County,” said Stephen Repasch, executive director of the Bethlehem Authority.
Repasch said authority officials will consult with their solicitor and Atlantic Wind before deciding whether to appeal.
Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, has an agreement with the authority to build on 260 acres of land near Hatchery Road, also known as Reservoir Road.
The land is part of the 23,000 acres in Carbon and Monroe counties that is owned by the Bethlehem Authority, the financial arm of the city’s water business. Avangrid Renewables did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The project would comprise 9,938 acres of Bethlehem Authority property and would include construction of meteorological towers, electrical substations, overhead and underground electrical wiresand data cables, access roads and an emergency service station, court documents say.
The turbines would be a maximum height of 525 feet.
Residents and other opponents have argued the project would hurt property values, the environment, water quality and the region’s tourism industry.
The Bethlehem Authority disagrees that water quality would be hurt and has argued the project would, overall, benefit the environment by creating more alternative energy. It also would have generated about $100,000 a year for the authority (or 3 percent of the gross revenue, whichever was higher), while advancing green energy initiatives that include a carbon credit program.
Atlantic Wind has also filed an application to construct 28 wind turbines in the same area, which is also being challenged in court.
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