Articles filed under Zoning/Planning from Maryland
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."
Frostburg's mayor and council tabled a possible moratorium on the construction of wind turbines in the city after Councilman John Ralston said he didn't believe that such a policy was needed since nobody has expressed interest in building any. At Thursday's public meeting, a motion to approve the moratorium had been made and seconded when Ralston - who was attending his final meeting before a new council is sworn in - spoke up.
The Allegany County Planning and Zoning Commission has authorized county planning staff to look into current code regarding wind turbines and what other jurisdictions have done to control both commercial and residential wind energy devices. Former state Sen. John Bambacus asked board members on Wednesday to draft a letter to the county commissioners recommending a six-month moratorium on the issuance of siting and grading permits related to wind turbines. Bambacus said he felt the moratorium was necessary because the issue is "much more complicated and complex that what I've heard tonight."
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.
When Allegany County planners begin studying how the county should regulate wind turbines, there should be plenty of examples of how best to proceed. Communities in many parts of the nation have been grappling with windmill issues and how to balance environmental and aesthetic concerns with energy needs. No better example can be found than in Garrett County, where there has been a huge outcry against placing windmills on state forests lands. ... Wind power can be an important part of the energy mix of a community. But the county needs to proceed carefully, with residential and environmental protection a No. 1 priority.
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.
The Maryland Public Service Commission is requiring more information from Criterion Power Partners, LLC for the proposed Backbone Mountain wind turbine project. According to a letter sent by Terry Romine, executive secretary of the PSC, to Kevin Rackstraw, developmental leader at Clipper Windpower, the commission has several questions about the interconnection agreement that would allow the wind turbine project to connect with the grid and Allegheny Power. "With this particular project," Todd Meyers, spokesman for Allegheny Power, said, "the company's studies were done three years ago.
Carroll studied the turbines and last week became the first in the state to enact an ordinance authorizing small turbines, limiting landowners to two 150-foot-tall systems per property. Officials hope many more people in Carroll and throughout the state take the opportunity to cut down on ever increasing electricity bills. ...Carroll Chief of Staff Steven Powell cautioned residents from hastily buying a turbine without checking to see if their property is well-matched. "Before someone makes a major investment, it's an e-mail or a call to make sure it's even practical."
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.
Illegal, unhealthful noise and devaluations of nearby property are only two of the many documented adverse consequences that flow out from massive wind installations. The Criterion project in particular will also devastate hundreds of acres of sensitive habitat, putting at risk much wildlife, some species of which are extremely vulnerable. The county commissioners endorsed this project last month without investigating what it would do to people and property here; this is a chilling take of how avarice overwhelms the common good. Pimping these beautiful mountains away for unsecured revenues represents values I neither understand nor respect.
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.
Gov. O'Malley's decision to not allow wind turbines to be constructed on state forest lands was certainly good news for Garrett County. However, the fact that destruction of the last remaining bits of wilderness in Maryland was even seriously considered is a sad testament to how crazy the whole debate over wind energy in Western Maryland has become. And let there be no doubt that wind developers will now be redoubling their efforts to construct ever-larger wind turbines on private lands wherever they can find landowners gullible enough to sign away their property forever and severely devalue their neighbors' property, for a few thousand dollars of annual rental income.
Since there are no regulations restricting the placement of turbines on private lands in Garrett County, and since the legislature in 2007 stripped away all Public Service Commission oversight, any wind developer, no matter how undercapitalized, incompetent, shady, or unscrupulous, may erect hundreds of turbines anywhere it chooses, at will. This will become the fate of Garrett County if nothing is done locally to stop them. Fortunately, something can be done, if our public officials will only exercise the courage and good judgment their responsibilities of office dictate.
A wind farm developer is shrinking a proposal to build turbines in Western Maryland, making the project small enough to be exempt from a major environmental review. Clipper Windpower Inc. officials say they now want to build 28 turbines instead of 67 along Backbone Mountain in Garrett County. That could make it the first project to be exempt from broad state review under a 2007 law meant to speed up construction of wind farm projects. Clipper is one of three companies competing to be the first to build wind turbines in Western Maryland.
The Maryland Public Service Commission heard testimony Wednesday on whether to use a new state law to grant fast-track approval for a Garrett County wind power project. The PSC staff has already recommended approval of the Backbone Mountain project. The commissioners did not indicate when they will decide. ...However, company officials say whether the company decides to go ahead with the project also depends on whether Congress extends wind power tax credits. If the tax credits are not extended, electricity costs would have to be about 30 percent higher to cover the more than $120 million cost of the project, said Kevin Rackstraw, a Clipper Windpower executive.
The draft comprehensive plan approved by the Garrett County Planning Commission considers ridgelines as a sensitive area in need of protection, which could prevent the development of wind turbines if the plan is passed and regulations are put in place. "The next series of changes we would need to make would be to our regulations themselves," John Nelson, director of Planning and Land Development, said at the Wednesday planning commission meeting. "This text makes recommendations to that effect. ... We're looking at the adoption of this plan around July 1." ...If that is completed within a timely manner with no complications, the plan could be ready for the county commissioners' approval as early as July. To implement the recommendations into regulations for sensitive areas, like the ridge tops, could take anywhere from six months to one year. Barbara Boone of Oakland said that the regulations, as recommended in the comprehensive plan, wouldn't be enough to zone areas where wind turbines could be placed properly.
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.
The Maryland Public Service Commission will make the official decision on the Criterion Power Partners, LLC wind project on Backbone Mountain next week, but already PSC staff is recommending the company's request. "Staff recommends that the Commission grant Criterion's application," the recommendation reads. "... and advise Criterion that an exemption from the (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) requirement does not limit the authority of any state or local authority ..." The document, available through the PSC Web site, states that Criterion, a subsidiary of Clipper Windpower Inc. of Carpinteria, Calif., will have to go through the necessary permitting processes, and that it should also include the approval of a stormwater/sediment erosion permit by Garrett County agencies, as the county had requested be done prior to the acceptance of the application.
"The announcement the other day wasn't an announcement against wind energy or alternative energy. It was an announcement to preserve the public lands that we hold in trust for future generations," said Rick Abbruzzese, an O'Malley spokesman. "The governor is interested in doing all that we can to find alternative energy sources here in Maryland," he said. "But it didn't make sense to do at this particular state park." O'Malley's decision has "absolutely no impact" on the renewable portfolio standards or RPS bill ..."
Gov. Martin O'Malley is to announce his administration's long-awaited decision on Saturday in western Maryland about whether to allow wind farms in state forests. State officials won't say what the decision is in this long-running debate, which has divided environmentalists and drawn overflow crowds to public meetings in western Maryland and in Annapolis. ...Some think he may announce a "split decision," saying that wind turbines may be permitted on state lands but only if they pass strict environmental review. The head of the Maryland Energy Administration, Malcolm Woolf, will be with O'Malley for the announcement, according to an invitation e-mailed to one person by Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. That makes some think O'Malley's likely to give a nudge of some sort to wind power ...But others take heart from O'Malley's choice of locations for his announcement ...