Zoning/Planning and Maryland
More than 200 people turned out last night to debate the merits of allowing wind turbines in state forests.
The vast majority of those who signed up to speak at a public hearing in Annapolis opposed using public lands for private energy projects.
Pennsylvania-based U.S. Wind Force has proposed erecting about 100 turbines in the Savage River and Potomac state forests in Garrett County. ...A hearing Wednesday night in McHenry drew 500 Western Marylanders, most of them strongly opposed.
Critics said allowing what amounts to an industrial project in state forests would set a bad precedent for exploitation of other public lands.
Members of Team Smart, which stands for the group Support More Alternative Renewable Technology that formed a year ago to study the wind turbine issue in Baltimore County, will join other speakers at the Planning Board's public meeting at 5 p.m. in Towson.
Key components of the Board's proposed legislation allow turbines on lots of 1 acre or more.
Allegany County's current zoning codes define key terms in regards to wind turbines - but not where, or under what circumstances, they could be allowed.
During a work session Monday, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard reasons why county staff should pursue defining what is and is not permitted in the county for both industrial and residential uses. The commission is expected to approve a study at its June 18 meeting.
Phil Hager, county planning coordinator, said a review should include economic impact, including job creation, the potential for lower energy costs, and the effect of wind farms on the natural habitat and wildlife.
Allegany County government planning staff were directed Wednesday to review ordinances currently in place that might allow or restrict the development of wind turbine farms.
Phil Hager, county planner, said "it might be prudent" for staff to review what current regulations do and do not allow. County officials have remained out of the public spotlight in recent years as the potential for wind energy conversion turbines have focused on land in Garrett County. Allegany County last addressed the issue in 2002, Hager said. ...Hager said Wednesday the review would be an effort to "stay ahead of the curve" of the inevitable dialogue bound to take place.
Amendments to Frostburg's wind energy systems ordinance will reduce the maximum height of a residential wind turbine from 165 to 75 feet and limit the number of wind energy systems to one per each lot of record.
The mayor and council approved the amendments Thursday night. A public hearing on the amended ordinance is scheduled during the regular City Council meeting Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Frostburg Community Center.
Clipper Windpower Inc.'s quest to put a wind turbine project in Western Maryland was deflated again - this time by the Court of Special Appeals, which revived a claim that the company reneged on its earlier settlement agreement.
Objector D. Daniel Boone claims that California-based Clipper reconfigured the project it agreed to in 2003, in an agreement that allowed the project to move forward.
"They unilaterally changed the plans," said Boone, a former employee of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. He is challenging the Public Service Commission's 2005 approval of Clipper's request to build larger, but fewer, turbines at the Criterion project in Garrett County.
A bill to reduce environmental reviews required of wind turbine proposals in Maryland has breezed through the General Assembly, a move lauded by industry leaders pushing for renewable forms of energy in the state.
The House of Delegates and Senate passed identical versions of the bill by overwhelming margins Friday. Gov. Martin O'Malley is reviewing the proposed legislation and is inclined to sign it into law, his spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese, said yesterday.
The ruling released Friday grants the Antonelli family approval to build a 120-foot windmill in its yard, a special exception to a county law that caps poles on residential property at 15 feet. In his opinion, Deputy Zoning Commissioner Tom Bostwick said the windmill will keep seven tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year and provide a "working example of utilizing alternative energy sources." ..."We were surprised he approved it without any independent study on how it's going to impact the surrounding community," said Lisa Viscuso. "We're disappointed."
Members will consider a pilot wind energy program that could give Baltimore County officials time to evaluate how those alternative systems work, what effect wind towers have on surrounding areas and what they might look like. The bill would create a pilot program to test small wind energy systems for use in manufacturing or rural areas.
The bill allows the small devices to be erected on poles up to 100 feet high and remain in place for up to one year. The instruments, which typically consist of three small cups spinning on an axle, can be used to determine wind speed in areas being considered for wind turbine construction.
While representatives of U.S. Wind Force were asking the Mineral County Board of Education Tuesday for their endorsement of the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm, a member of the Allegheny Front Alliance asked them to think very, very carefully before they make any decision.
A Federal Hill woman seeking to become the first Baltimore resident with a wind turbine on her roof failed to win approval from city officials yesterday.
The effort by Marsha Vitow brought opposition from neighbors concerned about safety and aesthetics and confounded city officials ...
David Tanner, executive director of the board, said the members had a long debate but decided wind turbines were not a legal exception.
Cresaptown resident David Athey, a retired college library worker and a Vietnam veteran, said on Tuesday that he and his brother, Charles Athey, of Potomac, Md., feel the project wasn't "explained very well when it came up as an issue." They have five points they'd like county officials and wind energy proponents alike to consider. None of the issues, however, are any that have not been discussed in public forums in wind energy discussions in Allegany and Garrett counties in recent years.
The Carroll County commissioners unanimously voted yesterday to allow the installation of small wind turbines.
The amendment to the zoning ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in Maryland, limits properties to no more than two "small wind energy systems" each consisting of a single tower not to exceed 150 feet in height, County Attorney Kim Millender said. ...The commissioners' unanimous vote came after all agreed to modify the amendment to say that systems out of service for a continuous six-month period, instead of the drafted version's 12 months, would be considered abandoned.
Light breezes and low elevations make Baltimore County uninviting territory for big wind farms, but the terrain could be more promising for residents hoping to trim electric bills and their "carbon footprint" with a home turbine.
The outlook could hinge on deliberations going on now, as the county revises the zoning code to cover such projects. Meanwhile, one homeowner's plan for the county's first electricity-generating wind turbine remains on hold as neighbors who say they support alternative energy have lined up against it.
The Hagerstown Planning Commission decided Wednesday to look into adopting state-recommended regulations for appearance, lot size, setbacks, sound levels and ground clearance for wind turbines.
Research presented at Wednesday's meeting showed wind turbines probably would not be cost-efficient in the city, where wind is limited and electric rates are already low.
The mayor and council members will hold a public hearing today at 6:15 p.m. at City Hall concerning the proposed Zoning Text Amendment of the zoning ordinance to allow for wind energy systems within the city.
"In a nutshell, (the amendment) says that only small wind turbines will be allowed as an accessory use in most zones.
The public will have until March 3 to respond to the issue of putting wind power on public lands in Maryland.
"We'll be compiling and reviewing all comments," Olivia Campbell, media relations manager for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said Thursday. "I expect the decision to be made shortly after the comment period."
Public meetings were held Wednesday and Thursday in McHenry and Annapolis for the public to comment on the issue of placing wind turbines on state forest land.
Campbell said there is no policy in Maryland for this use of public lands, and that is the reason for the hearings and comment period.
The Mineral County Commission moved Tuesday to go on record in support of the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm.
The support, however, is not unanimous.
After going into executive session to discuss "legal matters," which they later said related to the proposed contract in which WindForce will agree to commit itself to a "floor" for tax revenue to be generated by the project, two of the commissioners said they felt it was time for the county to commit to a position.
A Maryland company and another in New Jersey hope to build wind farms at opposite ends of Maryland.