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West Penn Township adopts wind systems ordinance

  • JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Tony Prudenti, Jr. questions the intent of an amendment to the West Penn Township zoning ordinance regarding wind conversion systems.
    JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Tony Prudenti, Jr. questions the intent of an amendment to the West Penn Township zoning ordinance regarding wind conversion systems.
Published November 03. 2009 05:00PM

West Penn Township has amended its zoning ordinance regarding wind energy conversion systems.

The township's board of supervisors finally adopted the ordinance Monday evening. Attempts to pass it stalled in previous months, leading to the proposed regulations being adjusted.

During a public hearing held prior to the adoption, residents expressed concerns that the new ordinance might be too restrictive.

"I don't feel it should be more stringent than the state allows," said Ernest Deem, a former township supervisor.

One resident, Ted Bogosh, questioned the ordinance's prohibiting of rooftop windmills.

"You can purchase a small windmill for under $1,000 to mount on a building," said Bogosh, who noted he owns a small, portable windmill that can be used on a sailboat and motor home. "It seems like you are prohibiting an alternate, low cost enegy system.

"It seems like a viable option for someone who wants a building off to the side with a low-cost power system," added Bogosh, who asked if he would need a permit for his wind system if the ordinance passed.

The West Penn Planning Commission worked to craft the ordinance, and member Herb Woodring said the new regulations were compiled from other sample ordinances. "We felt that having the vibrations on a rooftop would not be good for the building," explained Woodring.

Township solicitor Paul J. Datte, Pottsville, said he couldn't confirm if Bogosh's system would be in compliance. "It doesn't appear to comply with the ordinance, but until we received the actual (permit) application, we can't tell if it complies," related Datte.

Resident Tracy A. Perry asked if the supervisors are infringing on personal rights by denying the use of the systems on rooftops.

"It's not a problem if it complies with the manufacturer," said Supervisors Vice Chairman David Zeigler.

Tony Prudenti, Jr., a member of the Schuylkill County Planning Commission who also currently serves on the West Penn Zoning Hearing Board, asked about the intent of the ordinance.

"The old ordinance covered windmills," said Prudenti. "Is this to keep windmills out?"

Zeigler said the ordinance was intended to control the use of wind systems in areas such as mobile home parks.

"We're trying to stop higher density housing areas from getting them," he said.

"We don't want a proliferation of these in more densely populated areas," added Datte.

Perry wanted to know if the township had received complaints about wind systems. She said she didn't like that one of the supervisors was quoted in the newspaper as stating windmills are eyesores.

"The idea of an ordinance is to stop complaints before you get them," said Supervisors Chairman Randy Troxell.

The ordinance sets a three-acre minimum for a wind system, and Prudenti said that will eliminate a lot of residents from considering it.

"You are knocking a lot of people out of the box who don't have the three-acre minimum," stated Prudenti. "To me, it seems like we don't want them. If it's fair for one, it's fair for all."

Datte noted the county is drafting new wind system regulations, which creates a two-acre fall zone for such systems from the top of the blade. The county provides for a 90 foot high facility for resident districts and 150 feet for other areas. The systems are permitted uses in every zoning district, Datte added.

Perry went into a line item review of the ordinance, questioning if a system could still be denied after a site plan and review; how long it would take to implement a system; why a maximum height of 60 feet high was selected; why noise was limited to 45 decibels (the sound of a quiet library); as well as restrictions on reflective colors, fencing and signs.

She also questioned the determination of how such a system might be considered abandoned under the ordinance.

"You are discouraging the use of clean, renewable, affordable energy, especially if the homeowner's policy takes it on," she said.

Perry also suggested a shared wind system could make sense for residents who have less than the required three acres.

"These are barely enough power for homes, let alone sharing," said Troxell.

Datte said a property owner must use as least 75 percent of the power generated by a wind system. The excess could be sold back to the utility company.

Supervisor Alfonso Martinez moved to adopt the ordinance, with a minor revision regarding a reference to a section. "I think we've addressed most of the issues, he said. Troxell and Zeigler agreed.

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