Township denial of windmill farm is upheld by court
Although windmills are in operation in other parts of Schuylkill County, a county judge affirmed a decision by the Butler Township Zoning Hearing Board which denied a permit to Broad Mountain Development Company, LLC, to install a wind turbine project spread across the northeast section of the township in an east and west direction along the Ashland mountain and traverses over and along Fountain Springs valley.
The township zoning officer granted a permit to the company but nine property owners objected and took their appeal to the zoning board which overturned the zoning officer. Broad Mountain then filed an appeal in the county court and Judge Charles M. Miller denied the appeal and upheld the zoning hearing board's decision.
In June 2008 Broad Mountain erected a meteorological tower for the compilation of wind data as part of a feasibility study for construction of the wind turbines. The tower stands 60 feet above ground on a small portion of the mountainous area. The plan called for construction of 27 wind turbines. The company paid a fee of $20,213 to the township for the review process.
The landowners appeared to protest at a late date.
Miller ruled since the 35 invididuals did not participate in the hearing conducted by the zoning hearing board they have no right to intervene at this state of the proceedings in court. The judge restricted his ruling on whether the zoning hearing board committed an abuse of discretion or an error of law. The company argued to court the landowners are not persons aggrieved as they are owners of homes located in the Fountain Springs valley while the 27 turbines would be spread in a linear fashion over 1,100 acres on the Ashland mountain ridges immediately above the valley.
Miller ruled the zoning hearing board properly ruled that the construction, operation and use of the land as a wind farm is not a permitted use under the township ordinance, although the ordinance is silent as to wind turbine, containding no provisions allowing wind turbines as a use in any zoning district
Miller further noted the company legally was required to obtain a variance, special exception, or conditional use approval from the planning zoning commission in order to legally construct a multi-million dollar project. There is currently a wind farm operating in West Mahanoy Township.