Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Penn Forest Township ZHB denies permit approval for Iberdrola Atlantic Wind turbine farm

As reported in the Times News, the Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board review of a special exception application for a wind turbine farm, to be placed in a heavily wooded natural watershed area, was denied this evening.

This blogger attended three hearings ot of perhaps 6 or 7, at which experts testified on behalf of objectors to the impact this development would have on the environment and the citizens of Penn Forest Township.  A special exception use is a permitted use, but one that provides for conditions to protect the health safety and welfare of citizens.  Atlantic Wind must have sensed the winds that were blowing, because as testimony by objectors was coming to a close last summer, Atlantic Wind took a bizarre course of action and attempted to have the ZHB replaced by a judge.  This is after numerous hearings and hours and hours of testimony.  If this motion had been granted, how on earth would a judge or other entity replace the ZHB without the hearings starting over?

It is reported that this evening, Atlantic Wind did not appear for the hearing, and that after hearing some more objectors speak, the ZHB met in closed session and voted to reject the application.

This is fascinating to this observer.  Atlantic Wind filed a legal notice a few weeks ago, claiming it is entitled to "deemed approval" because the ZHB did not adjudicate the matter in the time frame as prescribed by the Municipalities Planning Code.  The reason the ZHB stopped meeting was because Atlantic Wind's unprecedented argument to have the ZHB replaced was being heard by the County Court of Common Pleas.  In this observer's opinion, Atlantic Wind realized last fall that its application would be denied, and is now resorting to strong arm tactics to force its way into this community.

You can be certain that this matter has not been fully resolved.  One can expect that Atlantic Wind will now pursue a dual course of appealing the ZHB's decision at the COCP (the correct jurisdiction for that), as well as pursue its claim of deemed approval.  It will be interesting to see if the ZHB agreed with objectors that variances that had not been sought were required, found that there were no conditions that could be placed on the applicant that would sufficiently protect the citizens, or came to some other conclusion.  Since a special exception use is a permitted use, they are hard to defeat in a manner that stands up to the appeal process.  Stay tuned.

Wind Farm Hearing in Penn Forest Township continues tonight after 9 month delay due to legal gymnastics by applicant - attempts deemed approval

Iberdrola (Atlantic Wind) went through several well attended meetings at the Penn Forest Fire Company last year, in a review of its Special Exception Hearing before the Zoning Hearing Board.  These meetings drew maybe 200-250 people, and while occasionally a few members of the audience would yell out comments, the meetings generally went without incident.  There was testimony by numerous experts, and a couple from western PA who testified about the negative impact a wind farm has had on their health and property values.

In September, Atlantic Wind filed a motion with the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas to have an independent hearing officer appointed, and for the remainder of proceedings to be held at the court house.  Atlantic Wind claimed that one or more people representing Atlantic Wind felt their safety was at risk.  Naturally the ZHB opposed this motion.

In February, a judge ruled against Atlantic Wind's motion, finding that the court does not have jurisdiction.  The provision in the Municipalities Planning Code to appoint an independent hearing officer grants only the Zoning Hearing Board this authority.  Atlantic Wind then requested of the county commissioners that the venue for the remaining ZHB proceedings take place at the court house - a request unopposed by the ZHB.  In late Mach, this request was denied by the county commissioners, citing a short list of reasons.

The next hearing for Atlantic Wind's proposal is tonight at 6pm.  Atlantic Wind, scum suckers that they are, and afraid of having their application denied on meritorious grounds, filed two weeks ago what is called a notice of deemed approval.  Deemed approval is provided for when a municipality fails to review a proposed project in the time provided for in the MPC.  In this case, the delays that have taken place have all been due to Atlantic Wind's legal maneuvering - not due to Penn Forest's lack of effort to complete the review in good faith.  This blogger is told there is record of communications between Atlantic Wind and Penn Forest that will document that an ongoing effort was being made to schedule the next meeting.

Most of the testimony and evidence in this case has been entered into the record.  It will be interesting to see this matter dusted off and brought to a conclusion.

Eldred Township voters reject remnants of corrupt administration that would have allowed Nestle Waters to extract 200,000 gallons of water a day

In a stroke of unparalleled gall, two officials from an administration that the evidence shows conspired to lay out the red carpet to water scavenger Nestle Waters ran for office this year.  Darcy Gannon, the mother of former Supervisor Gretchen Gannon Pettit (the girlfriend of Nestle lease holder Rick Gower), was the Planning Commission secretary during the time a critical and illegal zoning change was made that allowed Nestle to file its application.  Ellerslie "Bub" Dimwit Helm was the zoning officer when Nestle's application was filed.  These two specimens got on the ballot this year, Gannon for Tax Collector and Helm for Supervisor - apparently as some sort of payback to the forces that rose to defeat Nestle as well as sweep the trash out of the township offices.

This blogger met Helm in December 2015, prior to Nestle filing its application.   He came across as a bit of a buffoon, but on the subject of the Gower property he had an opinion and he wasn't hesitant to express it - Gower had extra water and he had a right to sell it.  Helm's job is not to opine on what he feels someone has a right to do.  His job is to enforce the zoning ordinance, but he clearly did not understand this. A few weeks later, Nestle submitted its application, and Helm issued a one paragraph review that he didn't even sign his name to, finding no deficiencies.  The township engineer's reviews found numerous deficiencies, one being that Nestle and Gower had already blocked a road across the property used to access lots off site.  Helm was on the Gower property, and either didn't notice this or didn't care.  Having met the man, both are possible.  Helm is the 10 watt bulb that slipped into the 100 watt package.  Helm was unceremoniously and abruptly shown the door once the stark discontinuity between his "review" and that of the engineer was observed.

Gannon is a horse of a different color.  Let's talk about her daughter first - mother's pride.  Gannon-Pettit called the county in her role as supervisor, and directed them to name a path that traveled off her boyfriend's property and onto a neighbor's property, continuing to a public road.  The boyfriend was issued a sign by the county and he erected it.  This illegal "road" was intended as a second access to the boyfriend's lot so he could lease the rest to one of his failed business ventures - in this case Nestle.  OK, so Ms. Gannon thence conspired with the lawyer representing her cherished Gretchen's boyfriend, who appeared before the Planning Commission and made misrepresentations on behalf of his client.  Gannon surreptitiously transmitted draft minutes of this meeting to the lawyer, who altered them to misrepresent what transpired during the meeting and returned them through the daughter's email to Gannon, with a note "thanks, let's get together and do lunch."  Gannon adopted the lawyer's alterations verbatim.  Once Gannon's actions were discovered, she was shown the door.

This story would be incomplete without mentioning another member of the conspiracy, Supervisor Sharon Solt.  Solt was the township Treasurer, Secretary, Supervisor, etc etc.  She was in a position to get whatever needed getting done, done, for the right people.  It was just recently discovered that she failed to send W-2s for township employees to Social Security in 2011 and 2012, resulting in fines to the township of $2807.70.  Solt and Gannon-Pettit successfully pushed through the purchase of the Eldred Township School, which came with roughly $50,000 per year operating costs, to use as a community center.  Only over a year later would the community be told that Nestle would give it about $30,000 per year - which one can easily surmise Solt and Gannon-Pettit had secretly planned to use to help defray costs.  Solt and Gannon-Pettit, as supervisors, were instrumental in passing the illegal amendment that allowed Nestle to pursue an application for the boyfriend's property.

Gannon-Pettit and Solt attempted unsuccessfully to replace long time treasurer and hater of this blog author Helen Mackes, who retired as of Dec 31 2015, with Gannon in the last 2 month's of the outgoing administration.  This attempt was blocked by people who knew enough about Gannon's actions to create a public spectacle and that cronyism was halted in its tracks.

The crowning achievement of the conspiracy to bring Nestle to town was that someone, and it could have only been one of a few people, called the Pocono Record advertising department and requested that the authorized text of a legal notice of the amendment in question be altered in a manner that concealed its effect to the public.

On just June 8 last year, Nestle withdrew its application as its deficiencies were becoming crystal clear during zoning hearing board review.  It is hard to believe that Gannon and Helm thought the community had forgotten the expensive and painful mess that their malfeasance and incompetence had caused.  It has not.

Here are the results:

Supervisor (vote for 1)
Gary Hoffman (D)  86 votes
Ellerslie "Bub" Dimwit Helm (D)  54 votes

Tax Collector (vote for 1)
Lenna Kuehner (D) 58 votes
Mindy Harris (D) 45 votes
Darcy "Lets Do Lunch" Gannon (D) 40 votes

It is frightening to see that Helm and Gannon received as many votes as they did.  Those who voted for them are the kind that would change the ordinance to allow forest near residential areas to be plowed down to put in race tracks and gun ranges, and abandon an easement to the township from the Rod & Gun Club for a Rail Trail.  In other words take Eldred Township back 10 steps.

The voters have spoken.  They have not forgotten what you did.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review of Synagro Crap Bakery before Plainfield Township Planning Commission (Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center) moved to June 12, 2017

Synagro's Crapshit Plans A and B

The regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting scheduled for June 19, 2017 to review Synagro's two grossly deficient site plans (Crapshit Plan A and Crapshit Plan B) for a 400 ton per day crap bakery has been moved forward to June 12, 2017.  It will be held from 7:00pm to 10:30pm at the Wind Gap Middle School.

Crapshit Plan A

Synagro's first site plan, submitted in October and updated in December, proposes to locate a solid waste biosolids plant in Plainfield's Commercial/Industrial zoning district, on a property that already has a principal use - Waste Management's business and logistics operations for its landfill.  As one might expect, Synagro's proposed use is permitted in Plainfield's Solid Waste zoning district (duh), not in the Commercial/Industrial zoning district.  Why Synagro's engineer was foolish enough to propose a solid waste use not in the Solid Waste district is one of those mysteries of life.  He's supposed to be a professional.  A clue is this dumb ass works for EarthRes, which prostitutes itself for some really controversial companies, such as Synagro and Nestle Waters - so incompetence or willful deceit are not out of the question.

Synagro has submitted a variance application to add a principal use, but it has NOT filed a variance application for a non-permitted use - the most difficult variance of all to be obtained.  Locating a solid waste use outside the solid waste district is similar to setting up an offtrack betting parlor in a residential zone - ain't gonna happen.

There are at least two more variances Synagro would need for this Site Plan to be approved - for less than the required acreage and having only one access drive instead of the two required.  To see how and when Synagro's Crapshit Plan A went down the crapper, click here.

Crapshit Plan B

Synagro's second site plan, submitted in March, takes Crapshit Plan A to a whole nother level.  While the proposed use is on subdivided portion of the Waste Management landfill parcel in the Solid Waste zoning district (a permitted use), it would:
  • Locate a parking lot and access drive over a pond (zoning ordinance requires a 50' setback)
  • Require development on over 1 acre of steep slopes (not permitted).
  • Provide bidirectional access paths (not permitted) and only one to a road.  The other would be via a neighboring lot through the backyard (not permitted).
  • Require using a neighboring parcel for loading and unloading operations (not permitted).
  • Relocate an accessory use of a business in the Solid Waste District to a lot in the Commercial/Industrial district (accessory uses are accessory to a principal use on the same lot)
  • Only provide 1.7 acres of usable space, while the Ordinance requires 5 acres
Synagro has filed 0 variance requests for Crapshit Plan B, even though it appears to need about 13 variances.  To see a breakdown of the variances required click here.

The zoning officer and alternate zoning officer issued a scathing 16-page review of this site plan on April 11, and as of today over a month later no response has been received from Synagro.  Nada.

Purpose of reviews on June 12

In light of the gross lack of compliance of Synagro's proposals with the Ordinance, and virtually total lack of hardship to obtain needed variances, a very fair question is "what is the purpose of Synagro appearance on June 12?"  Damned good question! (to see an analysis of how the variance hardships are not met for either proposal, click here)

A variance requires Planning Commission review prior to being heard by the Zoning Hearing Board.  Thus, applicants typically have their variances reviewed while before the Planning Commission with their site plan.  Why would they want to come back, and spend more money on lawyers and engineers?  As of this date, Synagro has filed no additional variance requests, and it will need to.  Edit: The deadline for filing new paperwork is 3 weeks prior to the meeting - Monday May 22 in this case.  Given the absurdly non-compliant nature of both site plans, it is expected something additional will be filed by Monday. Perhaps a withdrawal of the plans, but don't count on it.  Waste Management wants this very badly, for reasons unknown.  More than just rent.

Looking at Synagro's two site plans, each is what is in the state of what would be considered to be a "sketch plan".  A plan that presents a concept, and asks for a review but not approval.  There is simply no way either one of these plans can obtain approval on June 12, or any other night for that matter. The purpose of Synagro's appearance on June 12 is is a mystery to this author.  Maybe they want to talk crapshit, or sling some crapshit around and see if any cling-ons stick to the walls.  It will be interesting.

Synagro and Waste Management plot for a windfall, yet they have
no site to hatch the dirty egg and the fantasy is about to evaporate before their eyes

Township notice of June 12 Planning Commission meeting

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Waste Management quietly files application for expanded operations to add liquid waste processing/disposal to Plainfield Township/Pen Argyl Grand Central landfill

On March 29, 2016 Waste Management quietly submitted an application to expand its Plainfield Township landfill's operations to include the disposal of virtually any liquid waste.  Currently WM can only dispose of solid waste and sludge.  This plan (described in the document below) involves mixing the liquid waste with a solidification agent in a huge vat on the landfill site prior to disposal. 

A DEP spokesperson said that there have been a few meetings to discuss this application, and the DEP has not taken official action but has serious reservations of Synagro's plan to conduct these operations at this site.

Bend over and grab yer ankles, Slate Belt residents.  Waste Management is on a never ending quest to truck in the most profitable and objectionable waste that it can, and dispose of it in your backyard.

Waste Management Files Application to Expand Plainfield Township/Pen Argyl Permit with Solidification of L...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Plan B for biosolids plant in Plainfield Township hits skid mark row, as Synagro requests yet again for its plans to be tabled

Synagro has submitted site plans for two different sites proposed to be leased from Waste Management, to locate a 400 ton per day crap (biosolids) plant.  These sites are near the Green Knight Energy Center's methane to electricity plant, which is on a parcel also leased from Waste Management.  It was just announced that Synagro will again delay review of its plans.

According to press releases, the Synagro plant represents a "17 year effort by Green Knight Economic Development Corporation to make use of waste heat at the Green Knight Energy Center."  In fact, the plan lasted less than a few years, because it was never intended to locate a consumer of the waste heat on Waste Management property - the plan was to miraculously find a consumer who would locate on one or more parcels on the land now owned by Techo Bloc.  When Techo Bloc announced it had no use for the Energy Center's waste heat, and that it wanted all three parcels, the plan died.  Now we are asked to believe Green Knight has been working diligently since 2000 to find the right customer for the waste heat, and that shoehorning a biosolids plant into 1) where it isn't permitted or 2) where it is permitted but only 30% of the required space is available is the culmination of that hard work, which is a load of hooey.

For Synagro's part, they misrepresented at the November 2016 Planning Commission meeting that their proposed plant "meets all zoning requirements", yet oops, it isn't even a permitted use where they proposed it.  They are supposed to have professional engineers that check minor details like that.

In March, Synagro announced in a press release that they submitted a "building permit" which isn't even possible, for a new site where their use is permitted (congratulations for getting that part right), and that after a "three month ... comprehensive redesign" they have arrived at a new application in "that fully complies with the zoning officer's determination" the first plan was a non-starter.  That may be true, but the press release omits the fact that the new design deviates significantly from several other requirements of the Ordinance.  This is brought to Synagro's attention in the township's 16-page response to the new application.  It requires approximately 13 variances, most of them use variances - not minor dimensional shortcomings.  And Synagro does not have the hardships to merit the variances.

On April 19, Synagro announced it will table both Plan A (October/December site plan for first site) and Plan B (March site plan for alternate site).  What will they do next?  Fill in the quarry hole on the alternate site?  That will solve some issues, but they still have a major problem - access.  The Ordinance requires access to this plant be via an Arterial or Collector road.  Neither plan satisfies this requirement, and furthermore the new and improved plan requires use of Plainfield Township property as an access drive to access the site.  Synagro's site plan doesn't even show that Plainfield Township owns this land.- a deficiency (label added by blogger showing owner and tax parcel).  Another crappy plan from a company that specializes in crap.

A road runs through it -Synagro rep Jim Hecht stated April 5 that he is unaware that the yellow shaded area is to be returned to Plainfield Township's use when the landfill closes, and Synagro plans to continue operating after that.  Note Synagro's trucks must use township property.  Bummer, dudely.

No one except Waste Management, Green Knight and Synagro wants this plant in Plainfield Township.  There is no site that satisfies the Ordinance.  Pack it in and descend on another community where you are wanted - if you can find one.
Synagro announces it will not appear at May 2017 Planning Commission meeting for review of its two Site Plans

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Analysis: Synagro can not meet variance criteria for Plainfield Township Slate Belt biosolids plant sites

The whimsically named "Slate Belt Heat Recovery Center," which would be more aptly named "Synagro Biosolids Plant" has been proposed for two sites in Plainfield Township.  Both are owned by Waste Management, are located on parcels divided by a former rail trail that is owned by Plainfield Township and currently being used as a Waste Management and Green Knight Energy Center service road, and it is proposed that the land for either site would be leased to Synagro.  One site is in the Commercial Industrial Zoning District, on a parcel on which Waste Management has its offices and truck terminal, and the other is in the Solid Waste Zoning District spanning parcels on which the landfill and Green Knight Energy Center are located.  Lot lines are proposed to be removed and redrawn as shown:

Lot lines for each proposed Synagro site

Obviously, both of Waste Management's parcels (In Commercial Industrial and Solid Waste) are being put to very productive and lucrative use.  The landfill operation generates 10's of millions of dollars a year between the two parcels.  On its own small parcel, the Green Knight Energy Center clears about $800,000 a year on $1.8m of revenue..

We will examine the statewide criteria to be granted a variance, as specified in the Municipalities Planning Code.  It is important to understand that in Pennsylvania, a variance is intended to prevent an undue hardship on the property owner that makes it impossible for him to make use of his land.  A variance is not to be granted simply so he can make greater economic use of the land, and a variance is not to be granted if it is not in the public interest O'Neill vs. Zoning Board of Adjustment.  Additionally to achieve a variance "the spirit of the ordinance shall be observed, the public health, safety, and general welfare secured and substantial justice done" Richman vs. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment.  In short, a variance is to be granted in extraordinary circumstances.  Under the MPC, the Zoning Hearing Board "may grant a variance, provided that all of the following findings are made where relevant in a given case:
  1. That there are unique physical circumstances or conditions, including irregularity, narrowness, or shallowness of lot size or shape, or exceptional topographical or other physical conditions peculiar to the particular property and that the unnecessary hardship is due to such conditions and not the circumstances or conditions generally created by the provisions of the zoning ordinance in the neighborhood or district in which the property is located.
  2. That because of such physical circumstances or conditions, there is no possibility that the property can be developed in strict conformity with the provisions of the zoning ordinance and that the authorization of a variance is therefore necessary to enable reasonable use of the property.
  3. That such unnecessary hardship has not been created by the appellant.
  4. That the variance, if authorized, will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood or district in which the property is located nor substantially or permanently impair the appropriate use or development of adjacent property, nor be detrimental to the public welfare.
  5. That the variance, if authorized, will represent the minimum variance that will afford relief and will represent the least modification possible of the regulation in issue."
Remember, all of these criteria must be met.  We'll look at each proposal, and the problematic criteria.

Proposal for site in commercial industrial zoning district (October site plan)
The Site Plan for this site was previously found to require two Use variances - one for multiple uses on one lot, and one for a non-permitted use.  It actually needs more relief - the area allotted is less than four acres, and five are needed (Dimensional Variance), and there is only one access and two are needed (Use Variance).
  1. There are no unique size, shape or topographic characteristics of this site.
  2. Reasonable use is already being made of this lot - it houses the administrative and truck terminal operations of the landfill
  3. Any "hardship" argued is self-inflicted.  The sections of the Ordinance relief is needed to were in place when Waste Management bought the property from Grand Central.
  4. A variance would change the character of the neighborhood and impair adjacent uses and be detrimental to the public welfare.  The planned land use in the Comprehensive Plan for this site does not include solid waste processing; in fact this site is on land intended to be a buffer between solid waste uses and commercial and industrial uses along Route 512.  The Zoning Ordinance implements this land use goal in the uses permitted in the Commercial Industrial district.  A solid waste use past the lifetime of the landfill, currently estimated to be 2035 - would also have an impact on the public use of the adjacent township property (Recreational Trail) after the landfill closes.
Note that Synagro has been (the evidence suggests desperately) trying to find an alternate site for months, so they must believe they can not meet the criteria..

Proposal for site in solid waste zoning district (March site plan)
This site plan needs an Easter basket full of variances - thirteen by this blogger's count.  Nine Use Variances and four Dimensional Variances.
  1. There are unique characteristics on this portion of the lots proposed to be resubdivided.  However, this is less than 1% of the area of the Waste Management parcel that would be subdivided to create the site.
  2. Reasonable use is already being made of this lot - it houses the landfill.
  3. Any "hardship" argued is self-inflicted.  The sections of the Ordinance relief is needed to were in place when Waste Management bought the property from Grand Central, and before the last landfill expansion.
  4. A variance would change the character of the neighborhood and impair adjacent uses and be detrimental to the public welfare - by extending a solid waste use past the lifetime of the landfill, currently estimated to be 2035.  One element of this is the inability of the public to use the adjacent township property (Recreational Trail) after the landfill closes, as agreed to.
No relief is justified for either site
Let's return to the Supreme Court's opinions, cited above.  
  • The proposed plant is not in the public interest, on either site
  • Relief is only needed to make greater economic use of either plot of land, not to prevent the owner from enduring the hardship of owning an unusable parcel.
  • Both of these sites require variances that would result in a use that is not compatible with the spirit of the Ordinance.
Statutorily, as shown above of the five criteria that need to be satisfied, three are not satisfied on either site, and the fourth is arguable as satisfied on only one site.  Since all criteria must be met, neither proposal may be granted the requested relief.