Zoning/Planning and Maryland
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
The Garrett County Planning Commission approved 6-1 a recommendation to the county commissioners for a referendum vote on county-wide zoning.
"The county commissioners have said they wouldn't support it without referendum," Troy Ellington, chairman, said. "We are going to ask the commissioners to request county-wide zoning again be put up for referendum vote."
This came following a request by Oakland resident Barbara Boone that the planning commission consider an Adequate Public Facility Ordinance, which would allow local government to deny or delay new developments if existing services could not support them. It would require developers to prove there would be adequate services for new developments they propose.
A petition signed by 39 residents asks Garrett County commissioners to impose realistic setbacks or ordinances that would protect families and homes from a proposed wind farm on Four Mile Ridge and part of Big Savage Mountain.
When the Maryland Public Service Commission comes to Garrett County on Thursday evening, local residents are hoping that the county commissioners will request that the state not give Clipper Windpower an exemption on the commission's review process. ...Stanton said that he has concerns that the new opportunity for companies to avoid the PSC review process would not account for industrial wind turbines. He said that this is the first wind development to attempt to avoid the traditional PSC processes through the legislation passed last year.
In a letter he also gave to the commissioners, he said, "Garrett County cannot rely on an untried exemption process to protect our interests."
A bill that would have authorized Garrett County commissioners to control the development of wind farms in the county has died in the Maryland General Assembly. Commissioners will continue to look for ways to have some control over wind turbines in the county.