ALLEGANY COUNTY, Md. - While wind energy has been successful in parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the far western portions of Maryland, the debate of whether or not to invest in wind farms in Allegany County continues.
This debate is deeply rooted in the every-day lives of many communities and their residents, especially those who live near Dan’s Mountain.
Dan's Mountain is located approximately 12 miles West of Cumberland, Md, about six miles East of Frostburg, Md., and is the tallest mountain in Allegany County, reaching up to 2,983 feet.
Twenty five turbines were proposed in the original project, but in 2014, Dan's Mountain Wind Force, LLC re-filed for 19 turbines due to a hearing that was never scheduled. The company re-filed again in July, 2015, for 17 wind turbines.
According to Dave Friend, the Managing Partner with Laurel Renewable Partners, they re-filed to stay compliant with the county’s new set of rules after code home rule bill 2-09/ code 360-92 was passed in 2009.
The new rule protects against inconsiderate placement of industrial wind turbines, with respect to established homes in Allegany County. It states that turbines must be 1,000 feet from any property, 2,000 feet from homes, and 5,000 feet from all schools. The rule also includes setback requirements based on the height of the turbine and a submitted electromagnetic interference analysis.
The projected wind turbines would sit between five communities: Vale Summit, Harwood, Cresaptown, Bel Air and Midland.
Most of those residents are against wind farms, and formed the Allegany Citizens and Neighbors for Homeowners Rights, or A.N.C.H.O.R, a non-profit set up to protect Allegany County from wind farms.
According to the organization’s president, Darlene Park, Allegany County is a code, home-rule government, and can address zoning and land use codes for the county through a strict and organized process, which can't be trumped by state law.
“We do not want to live underneath wind turbines,” Park said. “There’s some people that have signed off on it for 1,500 feet from their home, [wind turbines are] very noisy, turbines are not friendly, they do not make good neighbors.”
According to Dans Mountain Wind Force, the proposed 17 wind turbine project will generate one million dollars in tax revenue in the first year.
Dans Mountain Wind Force said fortune 500 company, Exxon, agreed to own the project once it's finished, which is why Rick Lashbaugh, a long-time resident of Dan's Mountain, said he's in favor of the wind farm.
“I don’t know what you could find better for a resume for a county that's economically underdeveloped like Allegany County is than a fortune 500 company..and say ‘hey we need more business here’,” Lashbaugh said.
Lashbaugh said the company also promised to maintain all roads on the mountain, which would be beneficial to the residents who currently operate the roads.
However, A.N.C.H.O.R stressed wind farms are detrimental to the health and well being of the people, as well as the wild life.
“The location they want to put them is the highest mountain in Allegany County, it is our treasure, we have Dans Rock and we want to protect it,” Park added.
Although Lashbaugh said the pros out weigh the cons.
“No longer will we have to worry about whether we have to get an ambulance or a fire truck or police car in here,” Lashbaugh added. “[The wind farm] could be a stepping stone for the entire county.”
Nonetheless, the board of zoning appeals voted three to zero to deny Dan's Mountain Wind Force’s request.
The Allegany County BOZA will submit its written findings to the public 30 days after the trial, which is anticipated to take place by December 13, 2015. After that, Dan's Mountain Wind Force, LLC will have a chance to appeal the decision within 30 days of the opinion.