Published on September 03, 2022 at 08:52
The developer who proposed wind turbines on Bethlehem Authority land in Penn Forest Township is said to have left the project after more than six years.
The authority says Atlantic Wind LLC is no longer interested in building wind turbines on the authority’s 12,500-acre watershed property in Penn Forest Township.
According to Stephen Repasch, director of the Bethlehem Authority, Atlantic Wind’s decision is explained by the fact that it has other projects in development.
“This one wasn’t high on their priority list. The decision was made to let it go,” he said.
The project has been the subject of a lengthy court battle over whether wind turbines are permitted on the property under the township’s zoning ordinance. The township and a group of more than 40 residents have been fighting the project since it was proposed in 2016.
The Bethlehem Authority plans to continue the legal battle while looking for a new partner to develop the project.
Repasch said even if the courts rule in favor of the authority, it will be several years before a new developer is ready to install turbines.
“It’s going to be quite a long process,” Repasch said.
A new developer would likely stick to plans submitted by the authority and Atlantic Wind – calling for 28 turbines, which would be nearly 600 feet tall. A new plan would be subject to stricter wind turbine zoning regulations, which the township passed after Atlantic Wind submitted its application.
The ongoing legal battle revolves around two issues: whether the project meets township noise standards and zoning rules that state a property can only have one primary use.
The township and residents argued in court that wind power is a second primary use for the property, in addition to producing drinking water for the city of Bethlehem.
A county court judge ruled in favor of the township in 2020. Earlier this year, a state appeals court judge partially reversed the ruling.
She said the wind power was not an illegal second use because there was not enough evidence to prove the property was already being used for water production. In addition, the land of the Bethlehem Authority is made up of many smaller plots.
The judge also ruled that the Zoning Hearing Board should reconsider the case using a different noise standard.
The township and residents appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court in April. The state Supreme Court has yet to announce whether it will hear the appeal.
Repasch said the project is still a good idea because it provides green energy and revenue for the authority, while disturbing less than 100 acres of its watershed – which has 12,500 acres in Penn Township alone. forest.
“I personally think, given the energy needs of this society, that’s the way to go,” he said.