Bethlehem Press

Monday, October 15, 2018

Penn Forest looks at turbine law

Monday, July 10, 2017 by Judy Dolgos-Kramer in Local News

Penn Forest Township supervisors voted Wednesday to review its ordinance that permits turbines in the township.

After Atlantic Wind filed its application for a special use exception permit to build wind turbines in Penn Forest Township, resident Marcus Laurence asked the township to tighten up the ordinance that permits turbines. Laurence has even provided the township with a sample revised ordinance to consider.

During June’s supervisors meeting, the board agreed to consider Laurence’s request.

On Wednesday, Supervisor Roger Meckes made a motion to hire Urban Research and Development Corporation to review the existing ordinance and to revise or rewrite it if it is found to be lacking.

“At our last supervisors meeting, residents asked that we take a look at the provisions in our zoning ordinance addressing wind turbines to determine whether or not they are up to date,” Meckes said. “Because none of us on this board, nor our solicitor, has the expertise to make such a review, our solicitor suggested we engage a professional land use planner.”

The board said previously it would not review the ordinance until the zoning board made a decision.

The township zoning board has been back and forth with Atlantic Wind LLC, which petitioned to build 37 turbines on property in the township.

After several hearings, Atlantic Wind filed a petition in Carbon County Court to have the meeting venue moved from the township fire company hall to “a safer location.”

A Carbon judge denied the motion. In May Atlantic Wind LLC claimed that its special exception zoning application to build wind turbines and ancillary buildings in Penn Forest Township was “deemed approved” due to the township’s zoning hearing board’s failure to schedule additional public hearings in a timely fashion.

The zoning hearing board disagreed with Atlantic Wind’s assumption, and scheduled and held a public hearing on May 17.

When Atlantic Wind representatives did not attend the meeting, the zoning hearing board closed the record and issued a ruling denying the application to build the farm.

On May 22, Phillip Malitsch and Christopher Mangold, opposing the application, filed a suit in the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas appealing Atlantic Wind’s claim of a deemed approval.

Atlantic Wind also has a case pending before the Commonwealth Court appealing Carbon County Judge Steven R. Serfass’ ruling which denied its request to appoint an independent hearing office in place of the township’s zoning hearing board.