The Penn Forest Planning Commission met on Wednesday evening to hear a conditional use request by Atlantic Wind, LLC.
Atlantic Wind, a division of Iberdrola Renewables, operates wind turbine farms throughout the world. The first step in determining the feasibility of developing such a resource is to collect meteorological data over a significant period of time.
To do so Atlantic Wind has an option to lease land owned by The Bethlehem Water Authority located entirely in Penn Forest Township and to erect two temporary MET towers to collect data. The towers will collect wind direction, wind speed, humidity and such. The data, which will be collected over a one- to three-year period, will be used to determine the feasibility of developing a wind turbine farm on the site.
The possibility of the project going beyond the data collection phase is quite low.
"The company tests hundreds of potential sites of which less than 10 percent meet the necessary criteria to create wind energy," said Denise Yarnoff, the attorney representing Atlantic Wind.
Yarnoff also made it clear to the members of the commission that the question before them had absolutely nothing to do with the ultimate question of using the land for a wind farm.
"Tonight all we are asking is for a recommendation from the commission to the board of supervisors to grant a conditional use allowing the construction of two temporary MET towers, whose sole purpose is to collect the meteorological data," said Yarnoff.
Yarnoff had been in attendance at the board of supervisors meeting on Monday evening where she obtained their conditional approval pending Wednesday's meeting and a decision by the commission members.
"The property is zoned R1 and permits conditional use for communications towers," explained Yarnoff.
Therefore there is no need for a recommendation by the zoning officer.
Yarnoff described the tower as being 8-12 inches in diameter, 198 feet in height and held in place by three guide wires. The top portion is painted with orange and white strips in accordance with FAA regulations. The guide wires are also painted so that they can be seen from the ground. The tower will be powered by a small solar panel. There will be no permanent fixtures related to the towers.
New planning commission member William Miller expressed his concern with the height of the towers due to the fact that the area is frequently flown over at night by medevac and state police helicopters.
Yarnoff agreed to add a condition to the request, that if the FAA does not require a blinking light on the tower, that Atlantic Wind would notify all known, potential air traffic, of the GPS locations of the towers. It would be the township's responsibility to provide them with the list of potential flight companies.
Commission member Dave Swinkowski made a motion to recommend the granting of the conditional use permit to Atlantic Wind to the Penn Forest Township Board of Supervisors. The motion was seconded by Chairman Alan Heydt. The motion passed with the conditions related to air traffic.
Also on Wednesday's agenda was the Middle Carbon County Comprehensive Plan and Park, Recreation, Greenway and Open Space Plan for approval.
Ann Toole, a recreation planner with Toole Recreation Planning of Doylestown, PA was on hand to give a brief overview of the plan and to answer any questions that the members might have.
The commission members were not ready to make a decision on recommending approval of the plan. Miller, who had been sworn in earlier in the meeting, had not yet had an opportunity to review the plan and requested time to do so. By a consensus of the members the item was tabled until a future meeting.
The draft of the revised township SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) was on the agenda but was not presented or acted on at the meeting.