The use of windmills as an energy source is on the rise and rapidly growing in Pennsylvania, even in residential neighborhoods. While windmill farms can be an interesting and peaceful sight from afar, the construction of a windmill in a backyard in a residential neighborhood may not be as welcoming. In the case Tink-Wing Mountain Lake Forest Property Owners Association v. Lackawaxen Township Zoning Hearing Board recently handed down by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the Court upheld the Zoning Officer’s issuance of a zoning permit for the construction of a windmill on residential property for private use.
The Court found that the windmill use was a permitted accessory use providing an essential service and that the Zoning Officer was correct in issuing a permit. Although windmill use was not specifically enumerated as an accessory use in the Township’s Zoning Ordinance, the Court found that the windmill use was a use customarily incidental and subordinate to the principal residential use – comparing windmills to solar panels, outdoor fireplaces, satellite television – all of which are now often considered to be customarily incidental to principal uses.
With the increased interest in wind power, Townships may need to consider adopting ordinances which specifically regulate this growing use in Pennsylvania.Check out the out the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s website for more information on the use of windmills as an environmentally friendly source of power.