OAKLAND – Local residents who attended Tuesday’s Garrett County commissioners meeting feel that the draft of the county comprehensive plan does not recognize their opinions on bringing wind power to the county.
“I’ve been disappointed that you’ve held no hearings, answered no questions and basically you put what I know to be a developer boiler plate for your passage in the comprehensive plan,” John Boone said.
Boone argued that not only does the draft plan seem to show support for the existence of wind power in Garrett County, but that he believes such support is unfounded.
The portion of the plan reads, “While the county acknowledges the potential negative impacts of wind power facilities, it also recognizes the benefits, especially those related to clean, sustainable power generation, and the socioeconomic and fiscal benefits to the county. On balance, the county supports wind power at appropriate locations, provided any site-specific negative impacts can be mitigated.”
Boone questioned whether the language was something drafted at the county level or if someone else had initiated the passage’s inclusion in the comprehensive plan.
Fred Holliday, county commissioner, said the county’s consultant firm, Environmental Resources Management, felt the topic needs to be addressed in the plan, as it has been a controversial issue, and could continue to be one in the future.
Holliday said that because there is no countywide zoning, there is no way to put ordinances in place to prevent the wind turbines from being placed on some of the ridge tops in the county.
“The reason there is language in the draft comprehensive plan update on wind power is that the two wind power projects have been approved for Garrett County – with the commissioners’ support – Clipper and Synergics,” Monty Pagenhardt, county administrator said. “Therefore, it is appropriate to include language in the update acknowledging that wind power will have a presence in the county and outlining some of the considerations, concerns, impacts, etc.”
Denny Glotfelty, commission chairman, added that there have not been public hearings on the topic because the county is following the comprehensive plan process. He said that there will be public hearings concerning the draft of the plan for the subject and other concerns that local residents have with any part of the first four chapters currently available.
He said that the county cannot proceed on this until the citizens have gotten their opportunity to make comments on the draft.
Barbara Boone, John. Boone’s wife, spoke about the county’s heritage plan, saying that it states that the entire county is a heritage resource.
“How do you square that level of industrial development with your heritage plan?” Barbara Boone said. “You have a published plan. The heritage plan is a published plan. The comprehensive plan is going through its 10- year revision. You inserted language in the comprehensive plan that is diametrically opposed to the language in the heritage plan.”
There was no response from the commissioners on the heritage plan.
John Boone also argued that the defense that wind turbines would provide clean energy was inaccurate, and that there would likely be the accompaniment of natural gas generators.
Vincent Collins also questioned the socioeconomic benefits, as Garrett County’s tourism and second-home industries rely heavily on the aesthetics of the area.
Paul Durham suggested that if citizens opposed and in favor of the wind turbines are able to meet with the planning commission, that some middle ground or better statement of how the citizens feel could be included.
“I think folks are left with the impression the county commissioners have inserted this as a statement of county policy,” Durham said. “People have that impression, whether it’s true or not, whether you did or didn’t.”
The draft of the comprehensive plan is located on the Garrett County Web site at www.garrettcounty.org under events.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a public meeting today from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Garrett College Auditorium to discuss development of a state policy that would govern the use of public lands to host wind power turbines.
By Sarah Moses
30 January 2008