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.