Posted 6/16/15 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
The Tioga Township Board of Supervisors gave its recommendation Thursday to the county for a setback variance related to a windfarm project north of the City of Tioga.
Current ordinance will not allow turbines to be placed less than 1,400 feet from any structure. The ordinance doesn’t define precisely what would count as a structure.
Tradewind Energy, the company developing the windfarm, applied for a variance in the case of unoccupied structures.
The county required the company to get input from the township and obtain signed waivers from all of the effected landowners.
County Commissioner Barry Ramberg, who attended the meeting, said the variance follows the intent of the law.
“It was meant to be occupied structures, not some falling down building,” Ramberg said.
One planned wind turbine will sit less than 1,400 feet from an oil well. The windfarm project has no turbines inside the Tioga Township, but this parcel extends into Tioga Township.
The developer wants the same variance in Lindahl Township and has already received waivers from landowners.
Township residents who were opposed to the project raised concerns wind turbines would spoil the view. They were also worried about setting a precedent that would permit further variances for future projects.
Ramberg said variances are common practice in the county’s permitting process since ordinances can’t accommodate every possible scenario.
“A one-size-fits-all doesn’t work,” Ramberg said, and variances require precise language to define what is allowed.
Township supervisors cited the positive economic benefits of the project.
“The money that comes back is unbelievable,” said Township Supervisor Casey Almer.
The project will generate about $700,000 a year to the county in taxes, according to Brice Barton, senior development for Tradewind Energy. However, he could not provide definite figures.
Township Supervisor Sam Sagaser disclosed he has an economic interest in the project. He said lawyers for the township advised him he did not need to abstain from the vote but he wanted his interest in the project noted in the public record of the meeting.
Lindahl Township will hold its own meeting on the issue on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Brenda Kutter’s residence.