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.

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