Against the wind

BELLEVILLE – The Union Township Planning Commission listened to concerned residents about potential wind turbines being constructed on Jack’s Mountain at its Monday night meeting.

Volkswind, a German wind farm development company, has not submitted anything to the planning commission, Chairman Dwight Yoder said. The company has spoken with private land owners, he added.

In 2011 it was reported three representatives from Volkswind presented their visions of constructing wind turbines on Jack’s Mountain to the Mifflin County Planning Commission.

Yoder said plans have not come through the Union Township Planning Commission.

Although no action was taken regarding the wind turbines, many members of the public spoke to the commission about how they felt about a potential wind farm on Jack’s Mountain.

Shawn MacDuff, president of Hyner Hang Gliding Club Inc., said he drives three hours from his home in Reading to glide down Jack’s Mountain.

“Jack’s is a very unique mountain. It produces very good ridge lift,” MacDuff said. “Pilots come from New York, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C. on a regular basis, just for the day because of this unique mountain.”

MacDuff said his club has more than 100 members and they come regularly to use the mountain.

“We aren’t trying to stop them. We just want to make sure they go through proper procedure and do everything legal. make sure they do proper protocol,” MacDuff said.

Laura Jackson, president of Save Our Allegheny Ridges, an organization devoted to preserving Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains as a valuable scenic and wildlife resource, said she offered her advice on how the the commission can use precaution through ordinances to avoid someone taking advantage of the township.

“There should be regulations in place to minimize the harm or to mitigate the harm and to protect the watershed as much as possible,” Jackson said. “The ordinance is designed to do that.”

Jackson also is a secretary for the West Providence Planning Commission in Bedford County. She submitted a brief summary of an ordinance already in place in some other townships in Pennsylvania.

That ordinance included special conditions an applicant must abide by to build on a specific portion of land.

She recommended the commission to follow the example of other townships that have put in successful ordinances.

Jackson said the ordinance is not designed to stop the project but it is designed to reduce the amount of damage that could be done.

There are many who say Jack’s Mountain has a lot natural resources and is a part of Mifflin County natural heritage. Many of the public who attended the meeting stressed their passion for the animals, birds in particular, that are living on Jack’s Mountain.

Sally Zook, a resident who lives within 2,500-foot range of the potential wind turbine, She said she was contacted by Volkswind about her property.

Zook cited a number of reasons for her being against the turbines, including noise, her well, the buck crossing on her land, bird migration and the visual the turbines would ruin.

“This is not who we are.” Zook said. “This is not what our valley represents and the type of people we have here. We have a great community and I would like to see it stay that way.”

Zook said the public was not informed of this potential gigantic industrial project and asked the commission where it stands on this project.

The Union Township Planning Commission said everything was in the beginning stages and no plans have been submitted from Volkswind.