Construction of a residential wind turbine east of Lebanon is being challenged by neighbors who claim the tower is not only a threat to their children and the environment, but illegal. ...Douglas and Nancy Miller, 1265 John Bart Road, want a court to overturn the BZA's approval, saying the 4-0 decision was "illegal, arbitrary and capricious." They filed suit on Sept. 28 in Boone Superior Court I. The Millers are represented by Krieg DeVault LLP, a Carmel law firm.
On Tuesday county officials approved a revised project plan for a proposed Garrett wind farm, putting developer Constellation Energy one step closer to building an electrical substation and 28 wind turbines atop Backbone Mountain near Eagle Rock.
The Maryland Department of the Environment halted work last week on the site of a planned electrical substation along Eagle Rock Road due to issues with water runoff and erosion controls.
The question about whether Garrett County will use its power of eminent domain to seize private property if a citizen refuses to grant an easement to a wind turbine company is purely a hypothetical one, according to the Garrett County commissioners. The officials indicated on Tuesday that they have no desire to use that power anytime in the near future.
"You can never say never, but you can say that it's not on the horizon," said commission board chair Denny Glotfelty during a public discussion about eminent domain. "We preserve personal property. That's what we stand for. So we're not going to turn around and take that right away."
The Garrett County government stands to reap more than $840,000 in royalty payments from a 2003 agreement allowing construction of three wind turbines on county land, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The disclosure follows the county commissioners' unanimous vote Feb. 5 to oppose construction of wind turbines on state forest land because they would reduce its recreational value.
Dennis Glotfelty, Republican chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, said Friday he saw no reason to reveal the county's stake in the Clipper Windpower Inc. project during heated debate about turbines on public land over the last three months.
"The people didn't bring it up and nothing was addressed on it one way or another," Glotfelty said.
While they say there can be no definite stance taken by the county for wind power projects on private land, the Garrett County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the use of public land for that purpose.
"Based on the substantial outpouring of public opinion and my opinion," Ernie Gregg, commissioner, said, "I feel that it is a wasteful use of recreational lands."
The three commissioners agreed that the majority of public opinion was against the use of the land for this purpose, based upon the meeting at Garrett College on Jan. 30 and in Annapolis on Jan. 31.
Commission chairman Denny Glotfelty said that he feels that the state land needs to be preserved for future generations.
Questions brought up over wording in the comprehensive plan have led to a decision by the Garrett County Planning Commission to recommend legislation and a moratorium on wind power in the county.
The decision for the board to make the suggestion to the county comissioners was made Wednesday in a 6-2 vote, with an additional unanimous vote to remove the wording of county support for wind power from the comprehensive plan draft.
"I've listened to arguments about parking places and signage," John Bombacus, a local resident, said. "These things are going to be 400 feet tall."
Some of those in attendance were worried that by letting regulations go through their traditional processes, it might be too late to effect new, smaller projects from getting approval at a state level.
The renewal of an easement on county property will help Clipper Windpower's subsidiary, Criterion Power Partners, proceed with financing on its project on Backbone Mountain.
"The commissioners agreed to extend the easement," Monty Pagenhardt, Garrett County administrator, said. "(The wind developers) are at a point where they are finally trying to get the financing.
It had been suggested at a planning meeting last week that the commissioners approve a moratorium on development of wind turbines and that they pursue legislation to allow the county to have some form of authority over future projects. That suggestion was deemed impossible by the commissioners after consulting with the county attorney.
They said that a moratorium would require a halt on all building projects in the county and that without some form of zoning, no legislation would have any authority behind it.
The commissioners said they would be open to putting zoning up for a referendum, but only if there is a definite showing of support for the action. This would allow the zoning to be grouped by district as the Sunday alcohol sales have been.
With more than 50 people in attendance, Garrett County residents were given the opportunity Thursday to voice their opinions on the proposed Clipper Windpower project on Backbone Mountain and a possible exemption from the traditional Public Service Commission review processes. ...Originally proposed in 2002 as a 100 megawatt project with 47 turbines, Clipper has downsized that request to 70 megawatts and 28 turbines. The project is seeking an exemption from the review process through legislation passed last year.
Garrett County residents urged the county commissioners to forward the draft of the land-use management ordinance, which establishes wind turbine setbacks, back to the Planning Commission during the public comment portion of Tuesday's county meeting.
"I think solving this issue locally for our county politics is the best pathway for getting real meaningful setbacks in place here in Garrett County."
Baltimore company Constellation Energy has finalized its acquisition of a Garrett County wind project, closing a deal for the $140 million, 70-megawatt Criterion wind farm with California-based Clipper Windpower Inc.
The project, now under construction, is scheduled to go online by the end of 2010.
The use of eminent domain in Garrett County isn't going to happen in the foreseeable future, according to the county commissioners. ...The question of whether the county would use eminent domain in regards to industrial wind turbines was raised by John Bambacus of Frostburg through several e-mails and in letters to local papers. He questioned if the county would use eminent domain to seize property in order to see that turbines would be placed on Garrett County land. ...Commissioner Ernie Gregg said, "I'm opposed to the use of eminent domain. There would be very stringent and compelling reasons for the use of it. Certainly (industrial wind) is not one of them.
Opponents of a Garrett County wind power project have hired the same attorney who helped another opposition group delay a West Virginia wind farm in federal court.
Morgantown attorney Brad Stephens represented the group Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy in opposing the Beech Ridge Energy wind farm during its permit process with the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
The Garrett County Commissioners will be holding a public hearing today at 10:30 a.m. on the issue of performance zoning in Garrett County as a way to prevent wind turbine development.
"The purpose of the meeting or hearing is to receive public comments on a proposal submitted by Barbara Boone and Nancy Nimmich to establish performance zoning throughout all of Garrett County," Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator, said. "Specifically, their proposal would add a new article entitled 'performance zoning' to the (Deep Creek Lake Watershed Ordinance) that would define and prohibit commercial wind turbine structures."
After three motions, Garrett County commissioners came to an impasse in regard to a decision on how to proceed with the public process of a draft land use management ordinance, a portion of which deals with wind turbine setbacks.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett must approve the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm, under national laws, before it can go ahead.
The project has gone to the Federal Government because it has been found likely to have significant environmental impact.
It now must be assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
"At any time I will enter into a motion to develop zoning laws that will regulate the propagation and proliferation of future wind projects in the county," said Crawford."We need to start the dialogue on how we can control noise and flicker."
There is still some doubt over who has the authority to establish certain regulations for industrial wind turbines. ...On the list was the allowance for the commissioners to create regulations to require a certain distance from surrounding properties.
The Garrett County Commissioners are still hoping for legislation to allow for wind turbine setbacks.
"We looked into it over the summer and our attorney (Mike Getty) told us we didn't have the authority," Denny Glotfelty, chairman, said. "There is no reason not to get legislation. Mr. Getty reiterated that we ask for legislation to single out wind turbines."
Garrett County finally has a new comprehensive plan that will serve as a policy for decisions made by the county's government. ...While the county commissioners did approve a final plan, it was without the protection of ridge tops as sensitive areas. This had been an issue of contention for the commissioners when they discussed their opinions on the draft plan at the September planning commission meeting.
Their concerns were the lack of specification as to the definition of a ridge top or what kind of development would be prevented.