Limerick Man Files Zoning Challenge Over Power Plant He Says Supervisors Engaged In Illegal "Spot" Zoning For The Site Of The Proposed Natural-gas-fired Plant.

Posted: December 29, 2000

LIMERICK — A man who lives near the proposed site of a a 500-megawatt natural-gas-fired power plant has filed a curative-amendment challenge to a township decision changing the location's zoning.

The appeal by Lawrence Piasecki, who has vehemently protested the proposed plant and belongs to a local opposition group, comes about a month after the Board of Supervisors' Nov. 15 vote approving FPL Energy's preliminary sketch plans. The plant would be built next to Peco Energy Co.'s nuclear-generating station.

Piasecki argues that when the supervisors amended zoning for the area in December 1999, their action constituted illegal spot and contract zoning as well as zoning for private rather than public interest.

An appeal hearing before Limerick's Zoning Hearing Board is expected to begin early next year and may continue for several sessions. (A zoning appeal being heard in connection with another proposed power plant, the Panda Energy project in Upper Hanover, has lasted for more than three months and has prompted officials there to double property taxes to cover the cost.)

Limerick Township Solicitor Joseph McGrory said yesterday that this might be the first time a curative-amendment challenge had gone to a hearing in front of the zoning board. The supervisors already have voted to send McGrory to represent them at the public hearing.

"The township will defend the constitutionality of the ordinance," he said.

FPL will send a lawyer to the hearing to offer support for the ordinance, said company spokeswoman Mary Wells.

Piasecki would not comment, referring questions to his attorneys, Marc Jonas and Andrew Bonekemper. They could not be reached yesterday.

Central to the appeal is the change to the zoning ordinance that includes private electrical facilities in light- and heavy-industrial areas.

Piasecki says the zoning is illegal contract zoning because it was done after the township and the original developer, Connecticut-based Limerick Partners, entered into an agreement.

He also argues that it is illegal spot zoning because the ordinance singles out one small property for the economic benefit of the power company.

The township will argue that because the text of the ordinance was changed, allowing for that use throughout the zone, the change is neither spot nor contract zoning, McGrory said.

He successfully argued the same principle - that a text change is not spot zoning - in Upper Merion, where he is also the township solicitor. In that case, McGrory said, a developer was denied plans to build apartments and offices on the Valley Forge Golf Course.

Kathryn Masterson's e-mail address is kamasterson@phillynews.com

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