June 06 -- Penn Forest Township and a group of residents continue to fight against plans for wind turbines on property owned by the Bethlehem Authority.
They recently turned to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to argue that the turbines are not allowed under the township zoning ordinance.
Bethlehem Authority first proposed wind turbines in 2016. The plan currently under debate was filed in 2018, and denied by the zoning hearing board the next year.
Atlantic Wind appealed that decision, but a county court judge decided against them. Atlantic Wind appealed again, this time successfully, to Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
The neighbors argue that the turbines are an illegal second use of the property. They argue that it is already part of the authority’s watershed, used to produce drinking water for the Authority’s customers.
The authority argues that its watershed property is actually a collection of different parcels. Some are used for drinking water, but the ones proposed for the turbines are open space.
While the zoning hearing board and county court sided with the township, the Commonwealth Court decided in favor of Atlantic Wind. A decision issued in January said that while the Authority does get drinking water from reservoirs it owns nearby, the wooded tracts proposed for turbines never received zoning approval for that use.
The township said it didn’t approve the use because the Authority was using the whole property for drinking water before the township had a zoning ordinance, making it a “grandfathered” use.
The township will now wait to see whether the Supreme Court takes up its appeal.
If they are denied, the case will still continue.
The appeals court also instructed the zoning hearing board to reconsider part of its decision - over whether the project would violate the zoning ordinance’s limits on turbine noise. Those proceedings are on hold pending the township’s appeal.