Zoning/Planning and Maryland
The Garrett County commissioners will hold a public hearing next Tuesday, June 24, at 10:30 a.m. in their meeting room at the courthouse on a proposal to amend the Deep Creek Watershed Zoning Ordinance. ...Under the amendment, a new Article 12 would be added to the ordinance that would define and prohibit commercial wind turbine structures.
Frederick County's federal elected representatives are keeping an open mind about a proposed power line that would end in Kemptown.
U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-6) touted the benefits of the proposed twin-500 volt power line that will run through parts of the county in a statement Friday.
"Residents and businesses in the Sixth District expect to have electricity for heat, light and air conditioning when they need it," he said. "In addition to these benefits, an upgraded transmission system could accommodate more renewable energy generation, such as wind or solar power."
The state's two senators, however, were more reserved when discussing the line.
Lawmakers agreed Friday on a measure that will make it easier to build large wind power projects in Maryland, after the Senate voted 40-6 to agree to a similar bill passed in the House with amendments.
The measure would allow developers to build wind farms that generate electricity for the wholesale market by eliminating environmental reviews looking at the potential impact on wildlife, endangered species and forest fragmentation that currently are part of the Public Service Commission's approval process.
Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Wendell Beitzel are trying both approaches by filing a handful of bills to repeal all or parts of a 2007 law that streamlined the regulatory and review process for industrial wind turbine facilities.
Edwards' Senate Bill 583, cross-filed with House Bill 605 by Beitzel, would mandate that any industrial wind energy facility go through the full review process ..."There's a lot of controversy back home over whether there's enough opportunity now for input from the public," Edwards told the Times-News this week while in Annapolis. "We felt that one way to try to resolve that is to try to repeal (SB) 566 and go back to what was in place prior to passage of SB 566, which sort of short-cuts the process."
Despite living in a state that hopes to become a leader in energy efficiency, people like the Flesches are discovering that obtaining approval to install turbines is difficult.
The struggle is not with the state or even the power companies. The struggle is with county and local governments - many of which do not have laws in effect to deal with wind turbines.
Rick Meehan vetoed his first city ordinance as mayor of Ocean City this week, sending a message to the council that its stance on wind turbine usage in Ocean City was a bit too conservative.
In a rare occurrence in local government, Meehan flexed his veto power on the recent passage of the ordinance allowing wind turbines in Ocean City after one of the area's most vocal proponents of the alternative energy conduits was finding it difficult to move forward with his planned project.
The state Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing March 6th in McHenry on the proposed downsizing of a Garrett County wind power project.
The change would shrink the project originally proposed by California-based Clipper Windpower from 40 turbines with a maximum output of 101 megawatts to 28 turbines generating up to 70 megawatts.
Wind Force had attempted to submit written comments and a full markup of the plan to the planning commission approximately one month after a public meeting held in June to collect public comment on the document. The planning commission refused to consider the Wind Force comments, stating that the comment period had closed.
A threatened lawsuit and claims that the county has not followed proper procedure in crafting its updated 10-Year Comprehensive Plan sparked a heated exchange this week between Mineral County Commission President Wayne Spiggle and attorney Jack Barr.
John Bambacus thinks now is the time to have wind turbine regulations in place in Allegany County "rather than react after the fact."
County Planning Commission member Bill Davis, however, sees no point in modifying the admittedly loose industrial wind turbine regulations currently on the books. Discussion around the two opposite positions could make some headway on Monday at the commission's work session at 3 p.m. at the County Office Complex.
The county is in the process of modifying its definitions and considering other modifications to the zoning code regarding industrial wind energy conversion systems and wind turbines for residential and agricultural uses.
Gov. Martin O'Malley has scheduled a trip to western Maryland to announce whether his administration will allow wind turbines on state forest land. ...The planned announcement will cap four months of heated debate over a company's proposal to lease and clear hundreds of acres in the western mountains to erect about 100 turbines for electricity generation.
The Community Advisory Panel for the proposed Pinnacle Wind Farm near Keyser will not conduct its regular monthly meeting, with panel members instead slated to tour a Pennsylvania wind farm later this month.
The wind farm tour, which is limited to members of the panel, is scheduled for May 18.
It was a good beginning. But there is still a very long way to go.
That was the consensus among Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission members and members of the public who testified Wednesday on the proposed modifications to the zoning code regarding industrial wind energy conversion systems and wind turbines for residential and agricultural uses.
The discussion had been initiated in March by Frostburg resident John Bambacus, who has consistently expressed frustration with Garrett County officials for their lack of countywide zoning and virtually no protection from what wind turbine critics argue are the many pitfalls of living near the tall towers.
County Planning Coordinator Phil Hager said Tuesday the item was removed from the agenda "at my recommendation" to give county staff time to review the proposal.
"The end goal we're trying to achieve could be better achieved by having it placed in the development standards section of the zoning code (rather) than in the text portion," Hager said. "All other standards for all other zoning classifications and all other uses are included in that section. It doesn't make sense to treat one use differently."
The Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday resumed discussion of the bonding and interference policies related to potential commercial or industrial wind energy installations. ...At issue is the bond amount the county could require wind energy companies to post. Hager presented a draft proposal to the county's zoning text that would require a $150,000 bond until an abandoned wind turbine has been taken down and the land restored similar to its original condition.
A year ago, Barry and Urszula Antonelli received county approval to install a 120-foot wind turbine at their new house in Phoenix and neighbors immediately appealed that decision.
Realizing there were no specific zoning regulations for windmills or wind turbines, the county's planning staff has spent the past year working on recommendations to regulate wind turbines for residential use.
Recommendations made by the Garrett County Planning Commission are not possible, according to the Garrett County commissioners, who say they will not pursue a moratorium on wind turbine development or legislation to provide regulation of the industry.
"A moratorium would (have to) be on all building construction, not just wind power," Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator, said. "They have to regulate everything. What the planning commission tried to suggest through some kind of legislation just can't be done outside of countywide zoning."
The commissioners sent out a statement saying that they looked into both suggestions made by the planning commission Wednesday, and that they were advised by legal counsel that neither the moratorium nor the legislation on wind turbine projects in the county would be possible.
Under the amendment, a new Article 12 would be added to the watershed ordinance that would define and prohibit commercial wind turbine structures. It would also define the territorial jurisdiction of the new article to include all lands in Garrett County except incorporated municipalities, explained John Nelson, director of the Garrett County Department of Planning and Land Development. ..."I think sometimes your freedom as a property owner is going to infringe on my freedom as a property owner," said New Germany area resident Kathy Tunney.
She said she and others ought to have the right to weigh in on the issue of wind turbines being built near their properties.
"We want the right to say something about what our freedoms and rights are," Tunney said.
In an ambitious $3 billion plan, the nation's largest power generator has proposed building a 550-mile power line stretched atop 13-story towers to bring surplus electricity from coal-fired plants in Appalachia and the Midwest to the power-hungry eastern seaboard.
A state Public Service Commission hearing examiner has recommended approval of a western Maryland wind power project - but with environmental restrictions that the developer has said could force it to reconsider.
The proposed order will become final on November 30th unless it is appealed before then.