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Packer reopens record on windmill hearing

The Packer Twp. Zoning Hearing Board met Friday afternoon to reopen the record of a public hearing into a proposal to build a windmill farm in the township.

Broad Mountain Power LLC has applied for a special exception and variances to the Packer Twp. zoning ordinance for construction and operation of a wind farm to be constructed and operated on properties located generally north and west of Dennison Road in the southwest portion of Packer Twp. and which is in an agricultural zoning district.

Between April 2019 and Sept. 29, a zoning hearing lasting 23 evenings of two to three hours each evening was held.

A decision on the project is not expected until mid- to late December, according to attorney Robert Yurchak, the Packer Twp. solicitor.

Friday’s hearing was held for attorney Brian K. Stahl, of the law firm Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn, one of the attorneys representing Broad Mountain Power, to read information into the record after that record was closed when the hearing concluded Sept. 29.

Stahl wanted to include an email sent from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that stated that agency would not issue a permit before Packer Twp. issues a zoning permit for the project.

“It (the email) indicated DEP would not be taking any action on a permit application submitted to DEP because there was the zoning permit that had not been resolved yet by Packer Twp.,” Stahl said. “This was the subject of a variance request by the applicant that all third-party agency approvals be a condition of approval because we could not obtain those prior to getting zoning approval. In essence, the ordinance had some language in it that put the cart before the horse.”

Attorney Bruce Anders, representing objectors to the project, attorney Don Karpowich, representing Kovatch, one of the landowners, and Yurchak had no objections adding the email to the record.

Attorney Greg Mousseau, the solicitor for the zoning board, said the email will be moved into the record.

Mousseau also asked that three letters – from Michele Davis, Dr. John Degenhart and Charles Hellings, which were erroneously omitted from the record – be added.

Stahl and Karpowich objected to the letters as hearsay, but Anders and Yurchak did not object.

Yurchak also clarified that the deadline for filing findings of fact is still Nov. 16, which Mousseau confirmed.

The proposed wind farm would consist of 21 wind turbines – to be chosen from 26 possible locations on the project site – and associated infrastructure including access roads, electrical collector and transmission lines, and up to four meteorological towers. The turbines in the wind farm will be of two different models, 21 larger and five smaller. One model would be approximately 656 feet in height and the other model would be approximately 452 feet in height. The meteorological towers are proposed to be approximately 418.5 feet in height.

Several properties now owned by Kovatch Enterprises Inc. and Hazleton Electric Inc. in Packer Twp. and Nesquehoning Borough are where the windmill towers would be built.

Broad Mountain Power LLC has applied for three variances – one for a change in the type of surface allowed during construction. Instead of “a durable, dust-free, all weather surface,” Broad Mountain instead proposes a gravel surface plus dust control measures during construction; a variance for for relief from certain site plan content requirements such as the scale of drawings and the extent and detail of topographic information; and from those portions of the township zoning ordinance that require or depend on compliance upon the delivery of permits or approvals that must be issued by federal, state or township bodies or agencies other than the zoning hearing board.