Judge mulls restraining order in wind turbine suit

Judge weighs request to halt construction of road being built near Lewes wind turbine

Associated Press

GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) -- A Delaware judge expressed skepticism Monday about a Lewes resident's effort to halt construction of a road near a controversial wind turbine adjacent to the University of Delaware's Lewes campus.

Gerald Lechliter, a retired Army colonel, sought the restraining order in a broader Chancery Court lawsuit. He filed the suit last year challenging construction of the wind turbine on land that had been set aside for open space and the process in which it was approved and funded.

Lechliter argued Monday that construction of the road, which began earlier this month, should be halted because part of the road lies within a "fall zone" surrounding the wind turbine, posing a potential risk to public safety if the 410-foot-high tower should topple.

But Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III reminded Lechliter that in order to meet the criteria for a restraining order, he must demonstrate that he would suffer irreparable harm if the road is built.

"What is the irreparable harm?" Glasscock asked Lechliter, who responded building a road that can't be used or has to be relocated would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

"Once the funds are spent ... they're gone," Lechliter said.

But the judge noted that any money spent on the road could be recovered in damages later. He also pointed out that could conceivably rule in Lechliter's favor in the broader lawsuit and order that the wind turbine, which began operating in 2010, be taken down, meaning there would be no problem with the road.

"At this stage, I can't order the state to stop construction of a road, just because, in your view, they're doing it illegally," Glasscock told Lechliter.

The judge also agreed with attorneys for the Department of Natural Resources and the university that halting projects funded with tax dollars simply because someone objects to them would lead to a nonstop flood of litigation.

"If that is the case, we'll be getting a lot of business in the Court of Chancery," said Glasscock, who told attorney he would issue a decision promptly.

The road project involves realigning a portion of Park Road on Cape Henlopen State Park property that is commonly used as an alternative route for access to the UD campus and a nearby public boat ramp. The realignment would bypass the university campus, allowing access to two residential communities and easier access to the boat ramp, by creating a new connection between New Road and Pilottown Road that does not cross the campus.

Lechliter, who has filed lawsuits against the wind turbine project in both chancery and federal courts, says a section of the road measuring more than 200 yards would be within a 615-foot perimeter around the turbine that DNREC and the university agreed upon in 2009.

Action in the chancery court lawsuit has been stayed pending a decision on motions by the defendants to dismiss the federal lawsuit.

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