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2 entities join forces in turbine appeals

Published April 25. 2019 02:03PM

Bethlehem Water Authority and Atlantic Wind are hoping to consolidate their individual appeals of Penn Forest Zoning Hearing Board’s denial of a special exception permit for a wind turbine project.

Having determined Atlantic Wind’s construction of up to 28 nearly 600-foot-tall wind turbines on land in Penn Forest Township owned by the Bethlehem Water Authority would not adhere to the municipal zoning ordinance, the zoning hearing board rejected the permit application on Dec. 17, 2018.

Atlantic Wind and Bethlehem Authority both appealed the decision, which is set for argument in Carbon County Court on June 21.

Atlantic Wind has an agreement with the authority to build the project on 260 acres of land near Hatchery Road.

“These two appeals are based upon the same record affecting the same property and the same proposed use,” Bethlehem Authority attorney James Preston wrote in his court filing.

The motion for consolidation was filed Monday.

Preston said Bethlehem Authority is challenging the zoning hearing board’s interpretation that the turbine use would constitute a second principal use on a lot.

“The board applies two terms, lot and principal use, in a manner inconsistent with law, established practice and common sense,” Preston said. “In doing so, the board abused its discretion and committed an error of law.”

According to Preston, the property where the turbines would be located is a collection of lots with distinct tax parcel numbers. The properties were acquired at different times, through different deeds, he added.

“Penn Forest cannot merge these lots as a matter of law,” he said.

According to the application, the wind turbine area was located in a residential district. The ordinance permits only one principal use on land located within that district, unless there is a secondary use permitted by the ordinance.

The hearing board concluded that the principal use for the Bethlehem Water Authority property located in the R-1 district, to be the production of potable water.

Bethlehem Authority is asking the court to reject the zoning hearing board’s analysis of multiple principal uses on a single lot.

“The property is vacant, undeveloped land and can’t be ascribed a principal use based upon a cherry-picked description of the Bethlehem Authority’s intentions culled from private documents,” Preston said.

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