The Alliance For A Clean Environment

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Congratulations to Concerned Citizens For Limerick's
Future On Their Outstanding Victory

Power plant fight takes new twist

By Carl Hessler Jr

NORRISTOWN -- Developers of a proposed $300 million gas-fired electrical power plant in Limerick were dealt a legal blow Tuesday when a Montgomery County judicial panel overturned the former township supervisors' 2001 decision that granted final land development plan approval for the project.

The decision was handed down by Judges Maurino J. Rossanese Jr., Thomas M. DelRicci and Calvin S. Drayer Jr. The judges didn't elaborate on the reasons for the ruling, but their decision was based on information gleaned from several appellate hearings held in recent months.

But if Limerick Partners LLC, the developer of the project, appeals the latest ruling, then the judges would be forced to file a concise written opinion explaining the rationale behind their decision.

Lawrence Piasecki, the township resident who along with his wife, Michelle, took the former supervisors to court in the fight against the power plant, was pleased with the ruling.

"This decision definitely energized us and other families in the community," Piasecki said Tuesday. "Based on the economy and new technology becoming available in electrical generation, I think it would be a poor decision if (Limerick Partners) continues with the project."

"Wonderful. I'm thrilled about the decision," added Eden R. Bucher, the Wyomissing, Berks County, attorney representing the Piaseckis.

The Piaseckis, of Sanatoga Road, are property owners whose property abuts the land where the power plant was proposed for development. They had banned with other residents, members of Concerned Citizens for Limerick's Future, to fight construction of the plant by Limerick Partners, or FPL Energy.

Gregory Dean Sr., an attorney representing the current Limerick supervisors who joined the Piaseckis in opposing the project, was also pleased, calling the judges' ruling "a proper decision."

"I think the approval by the prior board of supervisors was rather hastily done and they made a lot of mistakes. I think the judges verified that," Dean said.

Robert L. Brant, the attorney representing Limerick Partners LLC, declined to comment on the ruling until he has an opportunity to review the decision with his client. The company has 30 days to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court.

During the course of the appellate hearings, the judges expressed concerns about engineering issues concerning the project and even hired a third-party engineer to review the records and approval documents concerning the proposed project, according to attorneys close to the case.

The battle over the plant dates back to July 1999 when the first application for its approval was filed with the township.

At the heart of the fight was the issue of zoning -- whether the project qualified as a manufacturing use in the area where Florida-based FPL Energy wanted to build the plant. The 56.6-acre plant was proposed for an area bordered by Sanatoga and Longview roads in the township.

During the course of the debate, the township's zoning hearing officer gave an opinion in July 2001 that FPL's project qualified as manufacturing use in the limited industrial zoning district off Sanatoga Road.

Then, on Aug. 7, 2001, the supervisors voted 3-1 to approve land development plans for the project, subject to 19 conditions. Supervisors Greg Richardson, Glenn Holcombe and Rick Fidler claimed the plant was allowed under law.

Supervisor Pam Ricci voted against the project while supervisor Chairman Thomas Neafcy recused himself from the vote.

Those approving the project cited the $3.5 million host fee agreement (which included money for public sewer expansion projects) and the taxes the facility would generate for the Spring-Ford Area School District as substantial benefits to the community.

But the Piaseckis filed an appeal in September 2001, arguing the supervisors' decision was improper.

Attorneys for the current supervisors said the prior board "flagrantly and arrogantly ignored the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the residents and taxpayers."

The proposed power plant became a controversial issue in last year's elections and in the end, four new supervisors were elected, including three who were very vocal against the power plant.

Reprinted with permission by
The Pottstown Mercury
© October 2, 2002

P.O. Box 3063
Stowe, PA 19464

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